*Is accountability still on the table?

IS ACCOUNTABILITY STILL ON THE TABLE?…. On Sunday, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel indicated the administration wouldn’t prosecute Bush administration officials responsible for U.S. torture policies. Around the same time, however, David Axelrod said something slightly different.

So where are we? It appears the door to prosecutions is once again ajar.

Pressure mounted on President Obama on Monday for more thorough investigation into harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration, even as he tried to reassure the Central Intelligence Agency that it would not be blamed for following legal advice.

Mr. Obama said it was time to admit “mistakes” and “move forward.” But there were signs that he might not be able to avoid a protracted inquiry into the use of interrogation techniques that the president’s top aides and many critics say crossed the line into torture.

And while Mr. Obama vowed not to prosecute C.I.A. officers for acting on legal advice, on Monday aides did not rule out legal sanctions for the Bush lawyers who developed the legal basis for the use of the techniques.

It’s likely that nothing will happen in the immediate future. Even if White House officials are leaving possible accountability for Bush administration officials, a series of ongoing investigations will probably be completed before any new probes get underway. As of now, the Senate Intelligence Committee has an ongoing investigation, and the Senate Armed Services Committee is poised to release a more detailed report on how Rumsfeld’s Pentagon got into the torture business in the first place. At the same time, the Justice Department’s ethics office is also prepared to offer some sharp criticism of John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury in yet another report.

And speaking of Bybee, the New York Times editorial board isn’t the only prominent voice talking about the appeals court judge’s impeachment. Last night, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said it’s “certainly possible that an impeachment inquiry is warranted,” and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) joined Rep. Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in expressing concerns about Bybee’s continued service on the federal bench.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.