10 Years After “Torture Memos” – Time for Accountability

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the Bush administration’s “Torture Memos,” used to justify torture under the euphemism of “enhanced interrogation.” In these memos, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), under pressure from the White House, concocted legal opinions that authorized torture techniques (including waterboarding), and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, in violation of international and domestic law. The OLC is supposed to provide the White House with objective legal analysis, but in this case, it failed.  OLC lawyers, John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who is now a federal judge appointed by President Bush, justified tactics that had long been viewed as illegal.  They still are. The memos enable those responsible for the “enhanced interrogation” program to say, “Our guys said it wasn’t torture, so it wasn’t torture,” but those weak legal opinions do not mitigate the torturers’ culpability. A decade after the “Torture Memos,” the need for accountability persists. CIA officials destroyed evidence of what was done in the name of the American people. Some of the evidence – not all. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) has reviewed more than 6 million pieces of information relating to the CIA interrogation program authorized by the “Torture Memos.” The committee is expected to finish a final report this summer which will exceed 5,000 pages, and SSCI Chair Senator Dianne Feinstein has said that the report contains extensive new information about CIA interrogation and detention policies. We’re asking that the SSCI report be made public with the fewest redactions possible. As Colonel Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, wrote in an op-ed this week,

“‘Any reasonable person’ understands that the United States engaged in torture during the Bush administration. And yet members of that administration still defend their actions. They argue that the enhanced interrogation techniques they used or authorized were not torture. Referring to the now discredited torture memos, they claim that the Department of Justice verified that these techniques were not criminal acts.”

The interrogation techniques like that approved in the “Torture Memos” are ineffective, immoral, and illegal, and on his second day in office, President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting their use. But the President has refused to seek accountability. Ten years is already too long to wait.   Follow the Law and Security program on Twitter: @HRFLawSecurity

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Published on July 31, 2012

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