Justice Department Ethics Report No Substitute For Criminal Investigations

May 6, 2009

Top-To-Bottom Investigation Of Torture Program Necessary, Says ACLU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org 
                     (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

NEW YORK – According to news reports, a draft report from the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility concludes that the lawyers who wrote the "torture memos" legally sanctioning illegal interrogation methods committed serious lapses of judgment but should not be prosecuted. The Washington Post reports that former Bush administration officials launched a behind-the-scenes campaign to get the Justice Department to soften the ethics report.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:

"Regardless of the findings from the Department of Justice ethics division, the ball is in Attorney General Holder's court. The attorney general should not be swayed by political considerations or by an inquiry that was intentionally neutered and limited in scope. Attorney General Holder has said that he intends to follow the facts and the law wherever they lead. The logical next step is to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate those who authorized the torture program, those who legally sanctioned it and those who implemented it. It would be a dangerous precedent to conclude that lawyers who played a critical role in an illegal program are immune from criminal investigations. No one is above the law."

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

"Given the disturbing reports of pressure from Bush administration officials to water down this report, Congress must intervene and assert its oversight role. We cannot turn the page on the failed policies of the Bush administration when its lobbyists are attempting to rewrite history. This ethics review is only one piece of the puzzle. More than five years after the first disclosures of torture, it should concern all Americans that there is a 200-page draft government report on the role of three lawyers, but absolutely no Justice Department investigation of their clients – those top White House and CIA officials who asked for the opinions and reportedly made decisions on what torture tactics to use on which detainees. A top-to-bottom investigation is needed to examine not just those who authored these opinions but those who requested them and to determine whether these DOJ findings were watered down for political reasons. Congress can and must play an active role in that investigation."

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