ACLU Welcomes Report’s Conclusions on Detainee Treatment in US Custody
New Facts Further the Case for an Outside Special Prosecutor
WASHINGTON - Today, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) released the executive summary and conclusions of the committee's long-awaited report on its inquiry into the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. The American Civil Liberties Union welcomes the release and applauds the committee for initiating the inquiry.
"The Senate Armed Services Committee's conclusions confirmed what we have long known - the use of torture by the United States was not simply unrelated acts carried out by a few low-level officials, but rather a deliberate and systemic program established by our government's highest ranking officials," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The ACLU applauds Chairman Levin and Ranking Member McCain for initiating this vital inquiry. The American people need to know if crimes were committed in the authorization and ordering of torture and abuse. Those individuals must be held responsible for the United States to be able to move forward and restore the rule of law."
For nearly four years, the ACLU has led the charge in calling for an independent criminal investigation into the interrogation techniques used by the federal government against detainees held by the United States. Based on documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act litigation brought by the ACLU, several congressional hearings, and this latest committee report, it is 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.
"The committee report makes clear the role of top White House and Defense Department officials in authorizing torture and abuse," added Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. "It also includes a startling new fact, which is that a top Defense Department official was inquiring into methods of torture and abuse more than a month before President Bush ordered that the Geneva Conventions would not apply to the detainees. There is now a whole new question that an independent prosecutor should investigate on whether the president's order taking away Geneva Conventions protections was part of a scheme to engage in illegal torture that was already being explored."
"The committee report compiles a long list of activity during the eight months preceding the infamous Justice Department torture memos; the question for a special prosecutor should be whether the memos were guidance for future interrogations or were they a ploy to try to get out of torture crimes that already had been committed," Anders continued. "Senators Levin and McCain courageously put out their just-the-facts report, but it is now up to President-elect Obama to have his new attorney general appoint an outside prosecutor to investigate whether any of those facts constituted crimes."
In October 2003, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records concerning the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad. To date, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the FOIA litigation - including the Bush administration's 2003 "torture memo" written by John Yoo when he was a deputy at the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel.