Justice Department Releases Bush Administration Torture Memos

For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Laurie Gindin Beacham, (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

Justice Department Releases Bush Administration Torture Memos

Bradbury And Bybee Memos Are Released In Response To Long-Running ACLU Lawsuits

NEW YORK -  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. "There can be no more excuses for
putting off criminal investigations of officials who authorized
torture, lawyers who justified it and interrogators who broke the law.
No one is above the law, and the law must be equally enforced.
Accountability is necessary for any functioning democracy and for
restoring America's reputation at home and abroad."

Three of the memos released today
were written by Steven Bradbury, then a lawyer in the OLC, in 2005. The
fourth memo was written by then-OLC head Jay S. Bybee in August 2002.

"Memos written by the Office of
Legal Counsel, including the memos released today, provided the
foundation for the Bush administration's torture program," said Jameel
Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "Through these
memos, Justice Department lawyers authorized interrogators to use the
most barbaric interrogation methods, including methods that the U.S.
once prosecuted as war crimes. The memos are based on legal reasoning
that is spurious on its face, and in the end these aren't legal memos
at all – they are simply political documents that were meant to provide
window dressing for war crimes. While the memos should never have been
written, we welcome their release today. Transparency is a first step
towards accountability."

"The documents released today
provide further confirmation that lawyers in the Office of Legal
Counsel purposefully distorted the law to support the Bush
administration's torture program," said Amrit Singh, staff attorney
with the ACLU. "Now that the memos have been made public, high-ranking
officials in the Bush administration must be held accountable for
authorizing torture. We are hopeful that by releasing these memos, the
Obama administration has turned the page on an era in which the Justice
Department became complicit in some of the most egregious crimes."

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

Since 2003, the ACLU has filed
several lawsuits to enforce FOIA requests seeking government documents
relating to torture, rendition, detention and surveillance. These
lawsuits have resulted in the release of thousands of records.
 
"We need to know our history to
learn from history," said Arthur Eisenberg, Legal Director of the New
York Civil Liberties Union and co-counsel on the case. "Disclosure of
these documents is essential for our country, and will shed much-needed
light on one of the darkest chapters in American history."

The memos released today, in
addition to more information, including a copy of the ACLU's recent
letter to the OLC, a chart of the still-secret OLC memos, a video and
information about the ACLU's FOIA litigation, is available at: www.aclu.org/olcmemos

###

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.

Share This Article

More in: