WASHINGTON — A leading Democratic senator said Sunday that independent investigators should determine whether Bush administration officials ought to face charges over the harsh interrogation techniques used against suspected terrorists.
The White House had hoped to put the matter behind it by letting the attorney general make that call.
Other liberal Democratic lawmakers appearing on the Sunday news shows joined Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., in pressuring the Obama administration to pursue investigations into the interrogation policies. But they stopped short of demanding charges against the Bush-era lawyers and other officials who devised the policies that critics have denounced as torture.
Conservative Republican senators characterized the Democratic effort as counterproductive and politically motivated at the least and, at worst, damaging to national security.
Obama has said he would not seek to punish CIA officers and others who carried out interrogations resulting from high-level legal advice and policy decisions within the Bush administration. Obama said Attorney General Eric Holder would decide whether prosecutions were warranted against those who developed the policies.
Levin said he has recommended that the Justice Department select up to three people outside the department, such as retired federal judges, to recommend any charges or other actions against lawyers and others who developed the policies.