ACLU Welcomes Senate Inquiry Into Detainees and Their Abuse, Says Outside Special Counsel Needed To Answer Questions

June 15, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for conducting an oversight hearing on the issue of detainees held by the federal government. Critics have long called for Congressional inquiries into the issue, noting that there continues to be gross violations of the basic protections of detainees, and that an outside special counsel is needed to investigate and prosecute any criminal acts in the torture or abuse of detainees by the U.S. Government.

“Senator Specter is to be commended for taking a serious look at this important issue,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “In America, no one is above the law, even those at the highest level of government. This is a small but important step toward accountability, but an investigation by an outside special counsel with prosecutorial authority is needed. The American people deserve to know the truth.”

Today’s hearing, held by the Senate Judiciary Committee, comes more than a year after the release of the now infamous photos from Abu Ghraib. The ACLU, in a recent victory in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, is soon expected to receive additional photographs and video footage from the Department of Defense that depicts detainee abuse by the federal government.

The ACLU and its allies have been calling for an outside special counsel to investigate the issue of abuses, citing concerns that the roots of the abuses can clearly be traced to a series of administration policies designed to insulate the treatment of military detainees from public scrutiny, judicial review, and ultimately from the rule of law. Most top-level officials have not been held accountable in their role leading to the abuse of detainees.

In addition to calling for appointment of a special counsel, the ACLU is taking other steps to ensure that top military leaders are held accountable. The ACLU and Human Rights First have also filed a lawsuit charging Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody. The ACLU has also filed three similar complaints against Colonel Thomas Pappas, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski and Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez on behalf of the torture victims who were detained in Iraq.

“No one should be able to escape responsibility for crimes committed by the government,” Anders added. “A handful of low-ranking soldiers should not be the only ones held responsible. The Senate must demand full accountability and responsibility.”

The ACLU’s letter to Attorney General Gonzales calling for a special counsel is online at:

More than 30,000 pages of government documents on torture and abuse obtained by the ACLU are online at:

Background on the ACLU’s lawsuit against Rumsfeld and others is online at:

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