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Accountability for Torture Still the Goal, Still Elusive

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January 24, 2012

A pair of developments Monday made abundantly clear the lack of accountability for U.S.-sponsored torture after 9/11.

In a criminal complaint filed by the Justice Department, former CIA officer John Kiriakou was charged with disclosing classified information to journalists and lying to the CIA’s Publications Review Board. ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero declared, “It remains troubling that the government has failed to indict the CIA agents who participated in torture and who have thus far not been held accountable for these atrocities.”

The same day in Richmond, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an ACLU lawsuit against current and former government officials for their roles in the unlawful detention and torture of U.S. citizen José Padilla. The lower court had ruled in February that an American citizen designated an “enemy combatant” by the executive branch and tortured by government officials could not bring suit to vindicate his constitutional rights. ACLU National Security Project Litigation Director Ben Wizner, who argued the appeal in court, said:

“Today is a sad day for the rule of law and for those who believe that the courts should protect American citizens from torture by their own government. By dismissing this lawsuit, the appeals court handed the government a blank check to commit any abuse in the name of national security, even the brutal torture of a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil. This impunity is not only anathema to a democracy governed by laws, but contrary to history’s lesson that in times of fear our values are a strength, not a hindrance.”

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