Back to News & Commentary

Memos on the Mind

Share This Page
April 15, 2009

As you may recall, the ACLU has been trying to get Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos that provided the legal basis for the CIA’s illegal torture program.

Tomorrow, April 16, a deadline set in our FOIA lawsuit, we may finally see the documents authored by then-OLC attorneys Steven Bradbury and Jay Bybee. The memos reportedly provided legal justification for the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation methods — at black sites like the ones Abd Al-Rahim Hussain Mohammed Al-Nashiri was held in — that amounted to torture. The memos 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.

In this new ACLU video, National Security Project Director Jameel Jaffer talks about why it’s so important for the Obama administration to live up to its promise of transparency by disclosing the memos.

Please note that by playing this clip You Tube and Google will place a long-term cookie on your computer. Please see You Tube’s privacy statement on their website and Google’s privacy statement on theirs to learn more. To view the ACLU’s privacy statement, click here.

Last week, in the same statement announcing the closure of the black sites, CIA Director Leon Panetta was quoted telling Department of Justice (DOJ) staff that CIA officers who participated in the agency’s brutal interrogation program “should not be investigated, let alone punished,” because the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) told CIA officers the program was legal.

We hope that the new administration will make good on its promise of transparency and turn over unredacted versions of these memos tomorrow. The information in these memos is vital to the historical record and to informing the public about what actions were carried out in its name. But, transparency is just a first step towards accountability.

As President Obama and Attorney General Holder have said, no one is above the law. The release of the memos is also crucial to holding officials accountable for authorizing torture.

If you haven’t already, please send a letter to Attorney General Holder. He’s taken the first step and signed-off on the release of the memos. Tell him now to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate Bush administration officials who authorized torture.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page