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August 24, 2009
4:52 PM

CONTACT: Brennan Center for Justice

Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212-998-6289

Government Reports Show Renewed Need for Commission of Inquiry

NEW YORK - August 24 - Today, the C.I.A. is set to disclose previously unreleased portions of a 2004 inspector general's report.  The disclosure will provide fresh details about the agency's interrogation program and abuses that took place inside its secret prisons.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility recommended investigating prisoner abuse cases and Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to announce that he will appoint a criminal prosecutor to renew inquiries into nearly a dozen cases that the Bush Administration declined to pursue.  

"These developments are heartening moves in the direction of accountability.  However, it is important that any investigation not focus solely on interrogators who went beyond techniques the Justice Department authorized," says Elizabeth Goitein, director of the Brennan Center's Liberty and National Security Project.  "This is not about a 'few bad apples' that disregarded official policy.  Official policy - approved at the highest levels of the U.S. government - itself crossed the line.  What we need is a comprehensive, independent inquiry into post-9/11 abuses in our counterterrorism policies."

Among the first to lead the charge, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law proposed such an independent commission of inquiry last summer to explore the systemic failures of the institutional safeguards designed to ensure adherence to the rule of law. Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr., Brennan Center's Chief Counsel, testified before Congress on three occasions, calling for a non-partisan commission to investigate America's counterterrorism policies.

"An independent commission of inquiry would be able to focus on the systemic problems that allowed these policies to be implemented and to determine what institutional reforms are necessary to prevent such abuses from recurring," says Emily Berman, author of Executive Privilege: A Legislative Remedy and Brennan Center attorney. "It could create a comprehensive picture of what went wrong and what went right in our government's post-9/11 counterterrorism efforts."

The Brennan Center examined the Obama administration's response to a call for a commission of inquiry in Transparency in the First 100 Days: A Report Card.

For more information or to speak with Elizabeth Goitein or Emily Berman, please contact Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212-998-6289 or

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform, from access to the courts to presidential power in the fight against terrorism.


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