Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured

This piece originally appeared on The New York Times opinion page.

Before President George W. Bush left office, a group of conservatives lobbied the White House to grant pardons to the officials who had planned and authorized the United States torture program. My organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, found the proposal repugnant. Along with eight other human rights groups, we sent a letter to Mr. Bush arguing that granting pardons would undermine the rule of law and prevent Americans from learning what had been done in their names.

But with the impending release of the report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have come to think that President Obama should issue pardons, after all — because it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal.

That officials at the highest levels of government authorized and ordered torture is not in dispute. Mr. Bush issued a secret order authorizing theC.I.A. to build secret prisons overseas. The C.I.A. requested authority to torture prisoners in those "black sites." The National Security Council approved the request. And the Justice Department drafted memos providing the brutal program with a veneer of legality.

My organization and others have spent 13 years arguing for accountability for these crimes. We have called for the appointment of a special prosecutor or the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, or both. But those calls have gone unheeded. And now, many of those responsible for torture can't be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has run out.

To finish reading, please click here.

Learn more about torture and other civil liberties issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

View comments (15)
Read the Terms of Use


You suggest we reward these war criminals by pardoning them & hoping in the future that knowing something's a crime will prevent potential criminals from creating said crime! Do you think if we pardoned anyone in history for committing a crime that would serve as a deterrent in the future? I don't believe in the death penalty.


Pardon some of the most terrible crimes ever? Why not pardon the Wall Street executives who committed fraud while you're at it.

The ACLU needs to find an new executive director.

Michael Heath

What an appalling position. Mr. Romero needs to go.


The opinion piece in the New York Times by the ACLU Executive Director is shameful and a disgrace. He must resign as of today; I am for one wont belong to an ACLU that support impunity and pardon of the those that have made a mockery of American and International law. Whre are our moral principles? Romero has answer to us; don't mean a thing! Justice, to ask for Jutice is "so passe". Romero you don't belong to the ACLU!


As a longtime ACLU supporter, I have sadly come to recognize the fact the ACLU has become nothing more then a mouthpiece for the Neo-con Empire. You're participation in the 9'11 cover up is appalling enough but now Romero has totally sold us out.



See also: (no statute of limitations on wr crimes!)

I cannot fint the words to accurately describe my outrage that anyone from the ACLU would ever consider pardoning anyone for war crimes.


Disgusting and depraved. The ACLU should have fired Romero in 2001 when he was actively cooperating with the new 9/11 Security State. He is working hard to blow away the last shreds of credibility the ACLU ever had, and he's succeeding admirably. Shame.

Christopher Winter

I can sympathize with Anthony Romero's position. He and the ACLU have fought long and hard for accountability, only to be frustrated at every turn. I also understand that in some circumstances a blanket amnesty might be warranted. The prime example is probably the "Truth and Reconciliation" policy spearheaded by the late Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

Yet here I would argue against pardons. There already is ample evidence that the legal justifications for torture concocted during the Bush administration were based on flawed reasoning. Therefore, despite the watered-down final version of the Obama Justice Department report, the fact that Bush administration officials broke the law seems indisputable.

I would ask whether previous pardons have so seared the awareness of criminal conduct into the minds of officials that future such conduct was prevented. Did the pardon of Richard Nixon prevent subsequent criminal conduct by high government officials? No; there was Iran-Contra. Did the pardon of Mark Rich by Bill Clinton prevent future financial corruption? No; there was the Jack Abramoff scandal.

The United States is often proudly said to have a government of laws and not of men. Pardons, in my opinion, generally work to weaken that position which is the foundation of our nation.


Who are these people who commented above?
ACLU is the mouthpiece of the Neo-con empire? Seriously? Is your name Trotsky? It would have to be if you consider the ACLU to be Neo-con.
Most terrible crimes ever? Really? Have you ever even opened a history book?

On the other hand, if you want to stop giving to the ACLU, I am good with that!!


NO! Because I VOTED for him and that WASN'T why I voted for him and all I've been made to do is look like the biggest ass FOOL that ever lived.
And Dick Cheney said we should STILL be doing it. What a fuckin' NIGHTMARE he is.
I'm not pardoning them, bc it's all their fault that the rest of the people who helped with what happened are going to walk away scot-free and not even have to serve any time for what they did do; like Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
Someone in my FAMILY (NOT just a friend) was murdered on September 11 and those people helped fund it.

Eric, the guy who had a daughter with me, was never afforded a body for his grave. We never even were afforded a true Death Certificate. We had to settle for a death in absentia.
Now, because they tortured the people who helped fund the damn thing, he'll never get justice by way of having them sent to prison.
Just tell me this: When the fuckin' hell does the agony ever stop? When can it be done? When can we put it as a thing behind instead of in front of us? Because believe it or not, I don't feel like it's ever been behind us. It's always in front of us or walking along beside us.


Stay Informed