For Immediate Release
James Freedland, (646) 785-1894 or (212) 549-2666;
ACLU Calls on Justice Department to Release Bush Administration Torture and Surveillance Memos
Releasing Secret Legal Opinions Will Help Turn Page on Lawless Era, Group Says
NEW YORK - In
a letter sent to the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)
today, the American Civil Liberties Union requested the release of
secret memos that provided the legal basis for many of the Bush
administration's controversial national security policies. The Justice
Department continues to withhold many legal opinions, including memos
purporting to allow torture and warrantless surveillance. The ACLU has
previously sought the memos through the Freedom of Information Act
"Releasing the memos would allow the
public to better understand the legal basis for the Bush
administration's national security policies; to better understand the
role that the OLC played in developing, justifying, and advocating
those policies; and to participate more meaningfully in the ongoing
debate about national security, civil liberties, and human rights,"
said the ACLU in the letter.
In its letter, the ACLU called on
the OLC to release, at the earliest possible date, dozens of legal
memos related to interrogation, detention, rendition, surveillance and
other Bush administration policies. Since 2003, the ACLU has filed
three lawsuits to enforce FOIA requests seeking the OLC legal opinions
and other government records. These lawsuits have resulted in the
release of thousands of documents, but most of the key OLC memos are
still being withheld.
"Releasing the memos would also
signal to Americans, and to the world, that you intend to turn the page
on an era in which the OLC served not as a source of objective legal
advice but as a facilitator for the executive's lawless conduct," the
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The ACLU's letter cites President
Obama's recent memoranda on "Transparency and Open Government" and
FOIA. The president recognized the connection between government
transparency and effective democracy, and directed federal agencies to
minimize government secrecy and apply a presumption in favor of
"President Obama should be commended
for having made an unambiguous and historically unparalleled commitment
to government transparency," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU
National Security Project. "We're eager to see this commitment put into
More information, including a copy
of the ACLU's letter to the OLC, a chart of the still-secret OLC memos,
a video and information about the ACLU's FOIA litigation, is available
Also today, the media organization
ProPublica launched a Web feature that lists and describes the OLC
memos that are still secret. The feature is based in part on
information that the ACLU has obtained through FOIA litigation. It's
available online at: www.propublica.org/memos
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.