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First 100 days: 43's legacy dogging 44?

The Washington Post on the debate over the interrogation memos: "The legacy of George W. Bush continued to dog President Obama and his administration yesterday, as Congress divided over creating a panel to investigate the harsh interrogation techniques employed under Bush's authorization and the White House tried to contain the controversy over the president's decision to release Justice Department memos justifying and outlining those procedures."


Video: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036789/vp/30365151#30365151" target="_blank">Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., joins the Morning Joe gang to discuss the impact of the torture debate on both the Bush and Obama administrations.

"Obama apparently thought he could avoid what is now playing out. In the weeks when he was weighing the release of the memos, a vigorous debate took place within his administration. There was, according to a senior official, considerable support among Obama's advisers for the creation of a 9/11 Commission-style investigation as an alternative to releasing the documents. But the president quashed the concept."

A New York Times news analysis asks: Did torture help stop terrorist plots, or not? "Mr. Obama and his allies need to discredit the techniques he has banned. Otherwise, in the event of a future terrorist attack, critics may blame his decision to rein in C.I.A. interrogators. But if a strong case emerges that the Bush administration authorized torture and got nothing but prisoners' desperate fabrications in return, that will tarnish what Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have claimed as their greatest achievement: preventing new attacks after Sept. 11, 2001."

The story also contains this nugget: "Within the agency, the necessity, effectiveness and legality of the interrogation methods have been repeatedly subject to review. The agency's inspector general, John L. Helgerson, studied the program in 2004 and raised serious questions. According to former intelligence officials, that led to separate reviews by an internal panel headed by Henry A. Crumpton, a veteran counterterrorism officer, and by two outsiders, Gardner Peckham, who had served as national security adviser to Newt Gingrich, and John J. Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary. Their conclusions remain classified, but that could change now that the intelligence agency's techniques have been made public."

The Wall Street Journal: "Experts said the path to prosecution is littered with potential legal problems. There is international precedent for prosecuting officials accused of enabling war crimes. But the two main statutes that could form the basis of a U.S. prosecution have shortcomings for prosecutors. The antitorture statute sets a relatively high standard for prosecutors to meet, particularly when it comes to proving intent. Top officials could argue they relied on the legal memos that authorized the tactics and outlined how specific techniques in question wouldn't cause severe pain and suffering."

In other news… Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday that "Pakistan's fragile government is facing an 'existential threat' from Islamic militants who are now operating within a few hours of the capital," the Los Angeles Times says.

Indeed, here's the front-page article from the New York Times: "Pushing deeper into Pakistan, Taliban militants have established effective control of a strategically important district just 70 miles from the capital, Islamabad, officials and residents said Wednesday. The fall of the district, Buner, did not mean that the Taliban could imminently threaten Islamabad. But it was another indication of the gathering strength of the insurgency and it raised new alarm about the ability of the government to fend off an unrelenting Taliban advance toward the heart of Pakistan."

"Top US officials are increasingly concerned about Pakistan's ability to confront the Taliban, who appear emboldened by the government's decision to cede a large part of its territory to the armed Islamic militants," the Boston Globe adds in its top story.

Also in her testimony on Capitol Hill yesterday, Secretary Clinton showed the brutal toughness that made her a good debater on the campaign trail, dismissing questions, answering quickly and briefly when she disagreed – even cutting off a Republican questioner when asked about Dick Cheney. "Hillary Clinton mocked Dick Cheney at a Capitol Hill review of her first three months as Secretary of State," the New York Daily News writes. "'It won't surprise you that I don't consider him a particularly reliable source,' Clinton said, dismissing the former Vice President's claim that classified documents prove that harsh interrogations of terror suspects yielded vital intelligence.'"