Attorney General To Testify Before Senate Committee Today On Torture, Surveillance And Civil Rights

June 17, 2009 12:00 am

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Justice Department Should Reverse Damaging Policies Of Previous Administration, Says ACLU

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WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee today as it holds its first oversight hearing over the Department of Justice (DOJ) during the Obama administration. The American Civil Liberties Union has urged committee members to ask Holder tough questions on issues including overzealous surveillance, the restoration of the DOJ Civil Rights Division and torture.

“Unanswered questions about torture, a bloated terrorist watch list, overreaching investigatory guidelines and a crippled Civil Rights Division are just some of the blights inherited by the current Department of Justice,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Attorney General Holder now has an opportunity to reverse the damaging policies set by previous administrations and we hope he seizes it. Now is the time to commit to the change America was promised.”

The ACLU has been strongly urging Holder to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the authorization and use of torture during the interrogation of detainees held by the United States. There is mounting public evidence that crimes of torture were authorized and committed, including memos produced by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) obtained through FOIA litigation brought by the ACLU, testimony at several congressional hearings, accounts from detainees themselves 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. New documents released this week through a separate ACLU FOIA request show that detainees said they lied during their interrogations in an effort to halt torture techniques being used on them.

“We now know that detainees misled and lied to interrogators to stop the torture being inflicted upon them,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “Not only were these techniques illegal and immoral but they were also counterproductive. No one is above the law, and those responsible for the torture program must be held to the same standard as any other American who commits a crime. The appointment of an independent prosecutor is a vital step towards restoring the rule of law.”

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