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Demanding Accountability for Bush-era Torture

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April 23, 2009

Today, McClatchy featured an opinion piece by the ACLU’s National Security Project Director Jameel Jaffer and attorney Ben Wizner about accountability for Bush-era torture.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, by now you know that last week, in response to an ACLU lawsuit, the Justice Department released four horrific memos that provided the legal basis for the CIA’s torture program. And yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee released a declassified report on the Defense Department’s treatment of detainees in U.S. custody (PDF), providing even more evidence that the torture program was choreographed at the highest levels of government.

In the op-ed, Jameel and Ben write:

If we were to rule out prosecutions of people who followed legal advice — while simultaneously ruling out prosecutions of officials who authored or commissioned that legal advice — nothing would prevent any lawyer for any President from telling any interrogator that he could do anything to any prisoner…

…Ruling out prosecutions of political leaders would also send a message to the world that Americans approve of the torture policies that were adopted in their name.

The Bush administration developed its torture program in secret, and the American people were never consulted about the program’s morality, legality, or efficacy. But at a certain point — a point that we passed several years ago — enough information became public that we could no longer plead ignorance of the facts.

Restoring the moral authority of the United States will require us to repudiate the Bush administration’s torture policies, but we cannot credibly do so while we are condoning a cover-up…

…The available evidence warrants a criminal investigation. If an independent investigation confirms what already seems inescapable — that senior officials authorized torture — then the Justice Department must do what it was established to do: enforce the law.

Send a message to Attorney General Eric Holder today, asking him to appoint an independent prosecutor to ensure that no one is above the law.

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