For Immediate Release
Urges President Obama to Reconsider His Decision on Prosecuting for Torture
WASHINGTON - The following is an open letter to the President of the United States:
The White House
Society of American Law Teachers—SALT-- applauds the long awaited release
of four additional operational memos on interrogation methods, issued by the
Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) during the prior administration. The release of
these documents demonstrates a courage and fortitude that honors the United
States and the restoration of the rule of law. But acknowledging the actions
taken is not enough.
urge you to permit continued investigation of the actions of CIA officials and
others who engaged in methods that you and your administration have now
condemned, and to retain the possibility of indictment and prosecution of those
who engaged in criminal behavior. This course of action is particularly
important to avoid interfering with the investigation of the destruction of the
Al Qahtani torture tapes, already under way in the Eastern District of Virginia
under the direction of United States Attorney John Durham. We learned of this
investigation through an exchange of correspondence with the prior Attorney
General Michael Mukasey. In a August 5, 2008 SALT statement sent to Attorney
General Mukasey, we urged investigation and where appropriate, indictments for
those U.S. officials responsible for authorizing the use of torture on
“war on terror” detainees. On January 14, 2009, SALT received a
response from Jennifer Korn, Director of the U.S. Department of Justice Office
of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison, advising SALT of the on-going
investigation headed by U.S. Attorney John Durham of Connecticut to the Eastern
District of Virginia, relating to the destruction of the Al Qahtani torture
disavow prosecution of those who engaged in interrogation methods you now
condemn is to taint the honor of our uniformed military and civilian
professionals who – in the darkest days of the “war on terror”
– resisted such instructions and the mounting pressure to comply that
pervaded certain US-controlled prisons and interrogation centers. These brave
men and women refused to engage in inhuman and degrading treatment and torture
despite the purported guidance offered in these newly released memos.
memos appear to be offering legal guidance, but they do not. As professionals
whose task it is to teach and evaluate legal analysis, we believe it is
painfully obvious that these memos are not dispassionate advice of the kind on
which one could rely reasonably, but instead distort the very nature of legal
analysis, creating a mockery of the rule of law.
to published reports, the factual circumstances described in the August 1, 2002
memo by Jay Bybee to John Rizzo were known to be false at the time the memo was
written. Abu Zubaydah was not “one of the highest ranking members of al
Qaeda.” He was not uncooperative. The government must determine who is
responsible for creating these false narratives, who had access to the truth,
and how the OLC was manipulated from its traditional role as legal advisor to
the Executive branch. We must stand behind the principle that legal advice
based on falsely constructed narratives is not reasonable and cannot shelter
either the proponents of the disingenuous legal advice or the actors who were
complicit in creating it.
pattern of dubious facts and shoddy legal analysis is consistent with the
pattern in the other 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 memos (together “the
torture memos”) that have been released over the past years. The memos
purport to provide a legal “cover” for reprehensible treatment of
prisoners while encouraging our soldiers and intelligence persons to betray
their oaths and conduct activities that place them at risk of criminal
prosecution in the United States and in foreign venues.
law professors, we consider these memos a disservice to the United States
government, a disservice to law students who aspire to serve in the government
and military, a disservice to the professors and law schools that trained the
authors of these memos, a disservice to the legal profession that should be
sanctioned appropriately after full investigation, and most fundamentally, a
disservice to the American people.
memos resulted from enormous pressure to use torture. From the Senate Armed
Services Committee report of December 2008, the recent report of the House
Committee on the Judiciary, and other sources, we know that this pressure came
from the highest levels of civilian and military authority. We also know that
CIA employees and private contractors worked alongside our uniformed military
in battlefield interrogation settings and engaged in practices that were
developed under the misguidance of these memos.
you know, United States soldiers have been subject to court-martial, have
served or are serving sentences, and have been dishonorably discharged for
doing the kinds of things that these memos sanctioned. In their efforts to
defend themselves, they sought but were not provided access to these memos, or
their authors, as exculpatory evidence.
now dismiss the possibility of investigation and prosecution of crimes in the
name of morale is to destroy the morale of those in our government and country
who resisted this descent into unlawful and inhuman behaviors.
is time for criminal prosecutions to move further forward, not backward. As
noted above, John Durham, appointed by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey,
is investigating CIA wrongdoing in the Eastern District of Virginia. We urge
you today to expand his authority to investigate and prosecute all aspects of
crimes committed in the “war on terror.” To avoid any possible conflicts
of interest, we urge you to appoint Mr. Durham as a special prosecutor in the
spirit of bipartisan support.
sum, we urge you to stay your hand in blocking Mr. Durham’s ongoing and
future work so that he may proceed wherever the facts lead.
President, it is time for accountability and criminal prosecution so that we
can close the door on this era and ensure that future presidents do not take us
once again down this road.