Honor Those Who Said 'No' To Torture

July 6, 2011

Over the July 4th weekend, The New York Times published an editorial endorsing our call for the Obama administration to bestow official honors on those who "stood up against the Bush administration's immoral torture policies."

President Bush presents Presidential Medal of Freedom to former CIA Director George Tenet, one of the architects of the administration's torture policy, in 2009.

As Jameel Jaffer and Larry Siems wrote in a recent op-ed, "Those who stayed true to our values and stood up against cruelty are worthy of a wide range of civilian and military commendations, up to and including the Presidential Medal of Freedom."

The New York Times agreed: "This modest awards proposal has lately assumed a degree of urgency. After the killing of Osama bin Laden, some - like John Yoo, the Bush Justice Department lawyer who twisted the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions to excuse the inexcusable - argued that waterboarding and other abuses were both proper and necessary."

Top officials of the Bush Administration approved the torture and abuse of prisoners, but brave men and women throughout the military and the government challenged the policies, called out abuses, and worked to end the use of coerced evidence. These courageous individuals should be honored for their integrity and their commitment to real American values. So far, though, our official history has honored only those who approved torture, not those who rejected it.

By refusing to acknowledge the courage of those who said 'no' to torture, we betray the public servants who risked so much to reverse what they knew was a disastrous and shameful course. Honoring these people would encourage the best in our public servants, now and in the future.

Unsung Heroes

Sgt. Joe Darby is a former Army Reservist best known as the Abu Ghraib whistleblower. Then 24-year-old Darby was serving in Iraq when he discovered a set of photographs showing other members of his company torturing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. The discovery anguished him, but ultimately he burned the photos onto a CD and delivered it with an anonymous letter to the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command. Celebrated by some, and threatened with death by others, Darby has said that he “never regretted for one second” turning in the photographs.
Former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora led an effort inside the Department of Defense to oppose legal theories put forward by Justice Department lawyers that justified the use of coercive interrogation techniques. Mora argued that the techniques were ineffective and unlawful.
Col. Morris Davis, an Air Force officer and lawyer, was appointed to serve as the third Chief Prosecutor in the Guantánamo military commissions system. Col. Davis made clear that he would never permit the introduction of evidence extracted through waterboarding and insisted that the proceedings be transparent. Col. Davis resigned from his post in 2008.

Learn more about the courageous individuals who said 'no' to torture»


In the News
> Unsung Heroes (New York Times Editorial, 7/3/2011)
> This Independence Day Weekend, Let's Honor Courage (7/3/2011)
> Rights Groups Tell Obama: Reward Those Who Opposed America's Use of Torture in the "War on Terror" (Andy Worthington, 6/20/2011)
> Coalition Letter to President Obama Asking the Obama Administration to Honor Those Who Opposed Torture Under the Bush Administration (6/16/2011)
> Honoring Those Who Said No (New York Times Op-Ed, 4/27/2011)

More About the ACLU’s Work on Torture
> Torture FOIA Litigation »
> Reckoning with Torture »
> The Torture Report »


> Amnesty International
> The Center for Victims of Torture
> Human Rights First
> Human Rights Watch
> National Religious Campaign Against Torture
> Open Society Foundations
> PEN American Center
> Physicians for Human Rights
> The Rutherford Institute