ACLU Commends Senate Judiciary Subpoena for Interrogation Documents

September 25, 2008 12:00 am

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Torture memos have been kept in the dark for too long

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WASHINGTON, DC –The American Civil Liberties Union commends the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote today to authorize a subpoena of the Department of Justice (DOJ) legal opinions justifying harsh interrogation tactics.

The committee has repeatedly requested these documents justifying harsh interrogations of detainees held by the United States and has seen very little cooperation from DOJ. The Justice Department has provided some heavily redacted documents, which Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA) have called inadequate. A subpoena would legally require DOJ to comply with the committee’s request to produce complete documents. The vote was scheduled to take place a week ago, but was delayed at the request of one of the committee members.

“The Department of Justice has been stonewalling Congress for far too long,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The level of secrecy and noncompliance this administration has exhibited further underscores the lack of legal rationale for conducting torture in America’s name. President Bush and the Justice Department knew then, as they know now, that torture is clearly illegal under federal criminal law. Only through full disclosure can we begin to wipe away this stain on America’s image.”

In October 2003, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records concerning the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad. While more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU’s FOIA lawsuit, the government continues to withhold many vital records and litigation is ongoing.

“The Justice Department has repeatedly twisted or ignored the law in order to justify the use of brutal interrogation techniques the U.S. once prosecuted as war crimes,” said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project. “This administration continues to use ‘national security’ as a pretext to shield government officials from embarrassment, criticism and even criminal prosecution. Far too much information is being withheld and the public has a right to the documents still being concealed.”

The ACLU has led the charge in calling for an independent prosecutor to investigate and prosecute any violations of federal criminal laws related to the interrogation of detainees, including any obstruction of justice. To view the ACLU letter to Congress, go to:
/safefree/general/33202leg20071213.html

To view documents from ACLU FOIA litigation, go to:
/safefree/torture/torturefoia.html

For today’s New York Times article, “Bush Aides Link to Talks on Interrogations,” go to:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/25/washington/25detain.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=login

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