Accountability for Torture

Since 2004, the ACLU and its partners — the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace — have been litigating under the Freedom of Information Act for documents concerning the abuse of prisoners held by the Department of Defense and CIA. The litigation has resulted in the release of thousands of pages of government documents, including the Justice Department torture memos that were released in April, the FBI emails that discussed the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo, and dozens of autopsy reports relating to the deaths of prisoners in the custody of the Defense Department.

To those of us who have been working on the lawsuit, though, the remarkable thing is not how much information has been released but how much is still being withheld. Six years after we filed our FOIA request, and five years after the Abu Ghraib photos were broadcast by CBS 60 Minutes, the Defense Department is still withholding photographs showing prisoners being abused at facilities other than Abu Ghraib as well as details of abusive interrogation methods used by military interrogators in Afghanistan and Iraq. The CIA is still withholding a crucial report authored by that agency's Inspector General, transcripts in which prisoners describe the abuse they suffered at the hands of their CIA interrogators, as well as hundreds of documents relating to the destruction of videotapes showing CIA prisoners being waterboarded. We're expecting some of these documents to be released to us tomorrow, but it's clear that it will be months and perhaps years before we have anything that resembles a complete picture of how the torture policies were developed, on whose authority they were implemented, and what consequences they had for prisoners held by the military and CIA.

If it's remarkable how much information is still being withheld, it's even more remarkable how little has been done to address the information that has been released. Congress has convened no select committee. The Justice Department has inaugurated no criminal investigation other than a narrowly circumscribed one into the destruction of the waterboarding tapes. The victims of the Bush administration's torture program have received no official acknowledgement, and the proposition that they should be compensated for the abuse they suffered at the hands of their interrogators is one that has not got traction at all.

Earlier this month, the ACLU launched an initiative that will put new resources behind our transparency work and behind the larger aim of accountability. The Accountability for Torture initiative has four interrelated goals.

  1. Comprehensive disclosure about the torture program and its consequences. Over the next few months, we will step up our efforts under the FOIA. On the same day we launched the Accountability for Torture initiative, we filed a new FOIA lawsuit seeking some critical documents that in our view ought to be made public. These documents include OLC memos as well as correspondence between the White House and CIA about the CIA's interrogation and detention program.
  2. The assembly of an accurate, comprehensive, and accessible historical record. Beyond advocating for comprehensive disclosure, we'll also step up our efforts to make the documents we've obtained through the FOIA more accessible. We've already launched a new version of our search engine; while it's still far from perfect, it's an improvement on the original version and we will be making additional improvements over the next few months. Our legislative office will continue to press Congress to appoint a select committee that can examine the origins of the torture program, produce a comprehensive account of that program, and recommend legislative changes to ensure that past abuses are not repeated.
  3. Recognition and compensation for the victims. We will step up our efforts — both in Congress and the courts — to obtain recognition and compensation for the victims of torture. We've already filed several lawsuits on behalf of victims — in Ali v. Rumsfeld, for example, we represent Iraqis and Afghans who were abused at Abu Ghraib and Bagram, and in Mohamed v. Jeppesen we represent five victims of the CIA's rendition program. Over the next few months, we'll develop a broader strategy to ensure that torture victims are not forgotten.
  4. The appointment of an independent prosecutor. The publicly available evidence warrants a criminal investigation. Senior government officials who authorized torture should not be immune from prosecution, and they certainly should not be shielded from investigation. In fact, sanctioning impunity for government officials who authorized torture would send a problematic message to the world, invite abuses by future administrations, and further undermine the rule of law that is the basis of any democracy. As more information gets released — through FOIA litigation and through the hard work of investigative journalists — we will continue to call on the Justice Department to appoint an independent prosecutor to examine issues of criminal responsibility.

President Obama has spoken eloquently about the importance of restoring America's moral authority abroad. Restoring that moral authority, though, will require restoring the rule of law at home, and restoring the rule of law at home will require finally confronting the gross human rights abuses of the last administration. Over the next few months, we'll press the Obama administration to do this. As we've been saying, accountability for torture is a legal, political, and moral imperative.

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I see that a money compensation is also wanted. I am not surprised by that. Also President Obama has just endorsed the dictator of Honduras to be put back into office. I would not be holding my breath to see the President do anything.


Its amazing that our President, who is the president of the #1 example of a democratic society, is endorsing the push by the Hondurian president to become the countries dictator. Article 249 in the Honduras constitution states that any government official who attempts to promote the change of a term limit law of government must be removed from office immediately. Seeing as how Obama continuously steps on OUR constitution with his full government takeover, im not surprised he endorses this dictator-in-training.


I got off course there, but let me just say this, the joke called the ACLU wants to give terrorists who kill innocent Americans full protection of the law but do nothing to protect innocent late term fetus' who have no say or protection under the law. Double standard? What happened to the ACLU who fought for the rights of the oppressed not for the political agenda of the far left liberals


"As we’ve been saying, accountability for torture is a legal, political, and moral imperative." quote Jameel Jaffer, ACLU National Security Project

If what you say is true, why isn't anyone helping Americans who are being harassed, surveilled, and are the victims of job interference, property vandalism and more? For the love of God, would someone take this seriously and do something?

When there are over a million names on the terrorist watch list, is it not plausible to think that some system and/or agency has run amok right here within our borders? Please do something, if you really believe in the rule of law and our Constitution.

It's the perfect system. Those who complain are dismissed as "crazy" and some may, in fact, be mentally ill. Others have been pushed in that direction by this Machiavellian, sadistic process and others are just like most people on the street -- they are as sane as the next guy. Please do something. How could the ACLU turn a blind-eye to something so egregious and so very wrong?




THE DOJ MUST STOP THE ALQADA CIVIL LIBERTY UNION the only people that should be prosercuted is the aclu for interfring with safety of the american people is more important to me then the rights of terroists iam that the cia will classifie all remaining documents


the bush administration did nothing wrong everything they did was legal because congress athorized it and the courts have upheld every issue.


we should not waste time in prosercuteing anybody because everything was done legal


no american has ever been wiretapped the wiretaeing that is being done is on foreign terroists,and it was done with court approval,the aclu must stop interfering with goverment issues.the aclu must stop being so concerned for the terroists rights and be more concerned with american people


I think this is the closest we've come to the government addmiting we have a police brutality problem in america and hope this will have a tricle down effect as we've been honering our war veterens by beating up on thier kids for far too long.


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