Attorney General Holder To Face House Committee

May 14, 2009 12:00 am

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ACLU Says Committee Members Should Press For A Prosecutor To Investigate Torture Crimes

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WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder, appearing today before the House Judiciary Committee, will face questions on his operation of the Justice Department. Though the hearing is a general oversight hearing, the hearing likely will be dominated by committee members pressing the attorney general for a top-to-bottom criminal investigation of the legal culpability of those involved in the Bush administration’s torture program.

The ACLU has been strongly urging Holder to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the interrogation techniques against detainees held by the United States. Last month, a petition supporting that action was delivered to Holder with over a quarter million signatures gathered by the ACLU and several other groups.

“Attorney General Holder can no longer put off the decision to criminally investigate those responsible for torture,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “No one is above the law. It is not enough to simply admonish those responsible; they must be held to the same legal standards as any American who committed a crime. Those who ordered and implemented the horrific policies of torture must be brought to justice. The appointment of an independent prosecutor is a vital step towards restoring America’s rule of law.”

There is mounting public evidence that crimes of torture were committed, including memos produced by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) obtained through FOIA litigation brought by the ACLU, several congressional hearings and a report released last month by the Senate Armed Services Committee. These documents make clear that important decisions on the use of torture and abuse were made in the White House, at the Pentagon, and at the headquarters of the CIA and the Justice Department.

Additionally, yesterday the Obama administration reversed its decision to make public by May 28 a “substantial number” of photos depicting the abuse of prisoners by U.S. personnel. The photos, which were ordered to be released in response to an ACLU Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, include images from prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan at locations other than Abu Ghraib.

“Instead of hiding evidence of torture by locking away photos and documents, the Obama administration should be focused on appointing an independent prosecutor to investigate whether top government officials committed torture crimes,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “Only a full and fair criminal investigation can assure Americans that we can reclaim our values, that no one is above the law, and that torture has stopped and will not happen again.”

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