Senate Holds Hearing On Justice Department Torture Memo Report

February 26, 2010 12:00 am

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Criminal Investigation Into Torture Program Must Be Broadened, Says ACLU

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WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing today in the wake of a report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) that revealed new details about the development and justification of the Bush administration’s torture program. The report, which contained the results of an investigation into the authors of the Bush administration Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) “torture memos,” sheds new light on the extent to which the White House and Vice President Cheney’s office, in particular, were involved in the drafting of the memos and the development of the torture program, and gives the impression that the memos were drafted at the direction of those offices. This information comes on top of the wealth of other evidence already in the public domain that high level Bush administration officials were involved in the torture program.

As of now, a Justice Department official is expected to testify at today’s hearing.

“It is critical today that senators make clear that, given the information in the OPR report and the wealth of other evidence in the public domain, the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the torture program must be broad enough to include those who authorized and legally sanctioned these shameful acts,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

The OPR report found that John Yoo and Jay Bybee, two of the three torture memo authors, engaged in professional misconduct by failing to provide “thorough, candid, and objective” analysis. That conclusion, however, was rejected in a later memorandum written by Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, who, while still critical of Yoo’s and Bybee’s conduct, found that they exercised “poor judgment.”

“Rather than supply bona fide legal analysis, the Bush administration’s lawyers supplied the Defense Department and CIA with ends-driven memos intended to provide immunity for torture,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “The Justice Department’s investigation has to be broad enough to reach not only the interrogators who used torture but the officials who justified and authorized it.”

“Torture is a crime, and the authorization and sanctioning of that crime is not a legitimate policy decision,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “We must demonstrate that we take these crimes seriously and hold ourselves to the same standards we impose upon others. Congress and the Justice Department must finally take a stand and demand accountability.”

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