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More Than 250,000 People Demand Accountability

Jeani Murray,
Washington Legislative Office
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April 24, 2009

There’s an old saying that goes, “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Well, we on the field team at the ACLU think it needs to be changed to “LATE to bed, early to rise, work like hell and organize!” Who goes to bed early when there’s work to be done?

Boxes filled with the names of 257,961 people who signed our petition. The sign reads: “People say: Appoint a Special Prosecutor.”

You can rest assured we have been working hard to make certain that people at the highest reaches of our government hear our call that torture is wrong, and that we demand action to ensure our country never engages in these horrific tactics again.

Due to the wonderful support of our members and activists, and the collaboration with members of the Stop Torture Now coalition, we gathered more than a quarter of a million signatures calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to examine torture and other government abuses. We delivered those petitions yesterday during a hearing on Capitol Hill that under normal circumstances, would have been a discussion of the budget of the Department of Justice. We pushed, prodded and pitched the media, contacted members of Congress and joined forces with other groups like MoveOn,, Faithful America, Firedoglake, the Center for Constitutional Rights and many others to ensure that when AG Holder was at this hearing, he was asked the tough questions about the recently released torture memos,and what he was going to do about this sad chapter in our country’s history.

The first speaker in the hearing was Appropriations Committee Chair, Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.). During his opening remarks he discussed the memos and said they definitely described torture. We knew right then and there that all our hard work paid off. As the hearing continued, member after member sought the Attorney General’s view on this issue and asked to hear his thoughts on what actions to take.

At one point, Holder said: “…it is my responsibility as the Attorney General to enforce the law. If I see wrongdoing, I will pursue it to the full extent of the law.”

Christopher Anders, Senior Legislative Counsel for the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office (left), hands the petitions to Assistant Attorney General Lee Lofthus.

That’s encouraging news — especially since AG Holder said unequivocally that waterboarding was torture during his confirmation hearing. But we all know the political realities of getting there. Which means, there is a lot of work to be done to make sure the wrongdoers are faced with the full accountability of what the law allows. You can be sure we will continue to keep you informed on the next steps of how we can continue to use your valuable help.

If you’ve got a few minutes right now, please add your voice to the call for a special prosecutor at

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