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Bradbury Memos: Not Quite Yet

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April 2, 2009

Today was the fourth deadline for the release of the “Bradbury Memos”: three memos authored by Steven Bradbury, acting head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) from 2005 to 2009. The memos reportedly provided legal justification for the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation methods that amounted to torture. And they also reportedly provided legal cover for the CIA’s interrogation methods in anticipation of Congress’s expected effort to outlaw “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment,” which it did in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, passed several months after Bradbury issued the memos.

After negotiating with DOJ attorneys, today the ACLU agreed to a two-week extension for the government to finish its review of the memos. The DOJ has, in return, agreed to review for release another key memo, authored by Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General for the OLC from November 2001 to March 2003. (Bybee is now a federal appeals court judge for the 9th Circuit, and the subject of an ethics probe by the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility.) The Bybee memo, like the Bradbury memos, is critical to understanding the foundations of President Bush’s torture program. The DOJ’s letter to the Judge seeking an extension is available here.

You might recall that a few months ago the ACLU was haggling with the OLC over the release of these memos. In late January, we sent a letter to the OLC asking it to reconsider releasing the memos in light of President Obama’s executive order calling for more transparency with regard to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. We even sent the OLC a handy chart (PDF) reminding it of which memos are responsive to our lawsuits and what courts they’re in. (We collaborated with ProPublica to make the chart available online here.)

As important as these memos are, they will likely not tell the full story of the treatment of detainees in secret CIA prisons and elsewhere. That is why it’s crucial that Congress appoint a select committee with subpoena power and the necessary resources to fully investigate Bush administration abuses. And that is why the Justice Department should appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate the abuses and, if the facts warrant, initiate prosecutions. In order for us to begin fixing the damage done to this country by the last administration, Congress must fully investigate what took place and show the American public that nobody is above the law by holding those responsible accountable for their actions.

Call for accountability by signing a petition demanding that Attorney General Holder appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether crimes were committed.

You can also learn more about our FOIA request, and the subsequent lawsuit we had to file to enforce it, at

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