Thursday, April 16, 2009

More change today: The Obama administration releases more Bush II torture memos


ACLU.org--Once again, I have to say that I'm impressed by this release of the internal record and that it's a hard day for cynics and the terminally jaded (if they can even fathom the meaning of it intellectually). This couldn't be kept in the dark any longer, and the new administration's actions today--while not going nearly as far as most of us would like--is a good step forward towards accountability for the architects of post-9/11 terror policy.

Looking at some of these memos, it's clear that the Bush II administration was in panic mode after the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Torture? That's for the desperate.

But this release is not enough, and significantly more declassification is going to have to occur in the near future. The ACLU requested these documents over a year ago, and they only came to the rest of us through court filings:
In response to litigation filed by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Justice Department today released four secret memos used by the Bush administration to justify torture. The memos, produced by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), provided the legal framework for the CIA's use of waterboarding and other illegal interrogation methods that violate domestic and international law.

The ACLU has called for the Justice Department to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate torture under the Bush administration.

"We have to look back before we can move forward as a nation. When crimes have been committed, the American legal system demands accountability. President Obama's assertion that there should not be prosecutions of government officials who may have committed crimes before a thorough investigation has been carried out is simply untenable. Enforcing the nation's laws should not be a political decision. These memos provide yet more incontrovertible evidence that Bush administration officials at the highest level of government authorized and gave legal blessings to acts of torture that violate domestic and international law," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. ("Justice Department Releases Bush Administration Torture Memos," ACLU, 04.16.2009)
The stakes in maintaining our liberties couldn't be higher regarding state secrets. Today, the Obama administration made a much bigger step forward than most administrations ever would --even under the current circumstances--but many more will have to come. However, there is now more than enough material to justify substantial investigations into crimes committed under the color of authority under the Bush II administration.

The ACLU's site has the most complete PDF collection of the four key torture memos, authored by the Justice Department's OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) under the direction of the White House to give illegal acts of torture a sheen of legality:
A 18-page memo, dated August 1, 2002, from Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA. [PDF]

A 46-page memo, dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA.
[PDF]

A 20-page memo, dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA
. [PDF]

A 40-page memo, dated May 30, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA.
[PDF] ("Abuse of Power: The Bush Administration's Secret Legal Memos," ACLU, 04.16.2009)
The New York Times is also offering an incomplete selection of the memos on its site. Accountability is coming.

"Abuse of Power: The Bush Administration's Secret Legal Memos," ACLU, 04.16.2009: http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/olc_memos.html