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Show Me the Memos!

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January 28, 2009

Today, we sent a letter to the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) asking them to release still-secret memos that provided the legal basis for many of the Bush administration’s controversial national security policies.

The OLC — a component of the Justice Department — was created to provide objective legal advice to the Attorney General and to resolve legal disputes among federal agencies. But under the Bush administration, the OLC became a facilitator for illegal government conduct including unlawful interrogation and detention practices, rendition and warrantless wiretapping.

Although some of these memos (PDF) are public — both through leaks to the press and the ongoing torture and surveillance FOIA litigation by the ACLU and other organizations — a majority of them still remain secret. As McClatchy Newspapers points out, “The collections of memos…are viewed as the missing puzzle pieces that could help explain the Bush administration’s antiterrorism policies.”

Our National Security Project Director Jameel Jaffer explains why the release of these memos is so crucial in a new ACLU video.

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.

You can learn more about the memos and the men behind the memos, over at ProPublica — they have posted an interactive list of these crucial records — missing and known. ProPublica’s web feature is based in part on information obtained and compiled by the ACLU.

As President Obama has made clear in his January 21, 2009 Executive Order about FOIA, “democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.” We think the American public has a right to see the memos that supplied the basis for the Bush administration’s illegal national security policies

We’re hoping that the new leadership of the OLC agrees.

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