President Bush Pardons 14 Individuals

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WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush has granted pardons to 14 individuals and commuted the prison sentences of two others.

The new round of White House pardons are Bush's first since March. The development Monday comes as Bush has less than two months left in his presidency.

Bush has been stingy about handing out such reprieves.

Including these actions, Bush has granted a total of 171 and eight commutations. That's less than half as many as Presidents Clinton or Reagan issued during their time in office. Both were two-term presidents.

Under the Constitution, the president's power to issue pardons is absolute and cannot be overruled.

A Department Of Justice press release says those pardoned include individuals charged with cocaine and marijuana distribution as well as embezzlement and tax evasion.

Bush also commuted the prison sentences of John Edward Forte of North Brunswick, N.J., and James Russell Harris of Detroit.

Some high-profile individuals, such as Michael Milken, are seeking a pardon on securities fraud charges. Two politicians convicted of public corruption - former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., and four-term Democratic Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards - are asking Bush to shorten their prison terms.

One hot topic of discussion related to pardons is whether Bush might decide to issue pre-emptive pardons before he leaves office to government employees who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Some constitutional scholars and human rights groups want the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama to investigate possible war crimes.

If Bush were to pardon anyone involved, it would provide protection against criminal charges, particularly for people who were following orders or trying to protect the nation with their actions. But it would also be highly controversial.

At the same time, Obama advisers say there is little - if any - chance that his administration would bring criminal charges.