Justice Department Releases Four More
Bush Administration Torture Memos


Bradbury and Bybee memos are released in
response to long-running ACLU lawsuits;
Asshole Obama promises criminals they will not
be prosecuted by his Department of Justice;

The Nuremberg Defense (I just did what I was
told; they said it was legal.) persuades Obama
to allow torturers to get off scot free.


April 16, 2009

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org


Read the Four newly-Released Memos

ACLU Continues Battle for Federal
Government Accountability.

One Asshole Attorney Says Justice
Memos Prove U.S. Did Not Torture.


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."

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



Read the Four newly-Released Memos

A 18-page memo, dated August 1, 2002, from Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney
General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA. [PDF]

A 46-page memo, dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant
Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA. [PDF]

A 20-page memo, dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant
Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA. [PDF]

A 40-page memo, dated May 30, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant
Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA. [PDF]




ACLU Continues Battle for Federal
Government Accountability

Demand Accountability for Torture


For more than five years, the ACLU and other advocacy organizations have been seeking the release of Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos that supplied the basis for the Bush administration's interrogation, detention, rendition, and warrantless surveillance policies.

The OLC, which is a component of the Justice Department, was created to provide objective legal advice to the Attorney General and to resolve legal disputes among federal agencies. During the Bush administration, however, the OLC became a facilitator for illegal government conduct, issuing dozens of memos meant to permit gross violations of domestic and international law. Some of these memos have become public through leaks to the media and through the ACLU's litigation under the Freedom of Information Act. But most of them are still secret.

As the ACLU wrote in a January 28, 2009 letter to the OLC, the release of 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.



One Asshole Attorney Says Justice
Memos Prove U.S. Did Not Torture


Attorney David Rivkin's argument disputes claims
that the Department of Justice memos prove the
Bush administration violated anti-torture laws.




April 17, 2009


At least one high-profile attorney says the declassified Department of Justice memos detailing interrogation techniques prove the U.S. did not torture, even as the ACLU and some lawmakers claim the memos are proof positive the Bush administration did. 


David Rivkin, a constitutional lawyer and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, released a statement Friday saying the release of four memos provides a "great benefit" to the former president. 


"This data is analyzed in great detail to establish that the use of these techniques does not inflict either physical or psychological damage," said Rivkin, who served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. "The conclusions (the) memos reach -- that the specific interrogation techniques used by the CIA did not constitute torture -- are eminently reasonable." 


But not everyone thinks the memos clear the administration. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, said while he applauds the Obama administration for releasing the memos, their " alarming content requires further action." 


These memos, without a shadow of a doubt, authorized torture and gave explicit instruction on how to carry it out, all the while carefully attempting to maintain a legal fig leaf," he said. "These memos make it abundantly clear that the Bush administration engaged in torture. Because torture is illegal under American law -- as the U.S. is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture -- we are legally required to investigate and, when appropriate, to prosecute those responsible for these crimes."


The memos, written between 2002 and 2005, concluded that the interrogation techniques listed in them did not violate anti-torture laws.


One May 2005 memo detailed 12 techniques and concluded that none of them constituted torture, while describing how they would result in minimal damage to a detainee. 


On dietary manipulation, through which suspects are fed liquid diets, the memo said all detainees would be weighed weekly -- and the restricted diet would be ceased if a detainee loses more than 10 percent of his body weight. On "walling," through which a suspect is slammed into a "flexible, false wall," the memo said the technique is not intended to "inflict any injury or cause severe pain." 


Other methods included slapping and placing a prisoner in "stress positions" -- methods the memo said also are not intended to inflict long-term or significant pain. 


Those descriptions haven't calmed a number of analysts, activists and lawmakers. 


"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," ACLU Director Anthony Romero said in a statement. 


Rivkin argued that the documents were "well-written" and featured "careful and nuanced legal analysis." He said the United States did not use "brute force" and the memos prove detainees weren't tortured. 


"In short, these memos go a long way towards rebutting shrill and unfair attacks on the integrity of Bush administration officials, and, more generally, on America's honor," he said. 


The Obama administration has sought to abolish the legal interpretations in the memos, with Attorney General Eric Holder revoking all Bush-era legal opinions and documents that justified interrogation programs. 


President Obama declared the interrogation methods a "thing of the past," but also tried to assure CIA operatives they would not be prosecuted for their actions provided they followed the legal advice of the Justice Department. 


Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., though, released a statement suggesting that anyone who gave "improper legal advice" or authorized the program or used non-approved techniques should be prosecuted. 


"The so-called enhanced interrogation program was a violation of our core principles as a nation and those responsible should be held accountable," he said. 


The handling of the interrogation issue has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle, as liberals criticize Obama for protecting CIA agents and conservatives chastise the administration for releasing the memos. 


Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said the decision to release the memos was "reckless." 


"These are people that cut off people's heads," Perino said of terrorists. "I do not think that they think about the fact that they will be withheld sleep is something that they cannot abide by."


Michael Chertoff, former homeland security secretary, told FOX News the release gives terrorists advanced notice of what to expect during interrogation. Former CIA chief Michael Hayden said it could have a chilling effect on CIA agents' work. 


Perino suggested the interrogation techniques were critical, saying intelligence was a "key part" of keeping the U.S. safe. 


"I think the correct course is the last seven-and-a-half years when President Bush was in office. We were not attacked again and there is a reason for that. It was not an accident," she said.


Rivkin said releasing the memos "rendered (the interrogation techniques) essentially unusable in the future," since U.S. enemies will train their operatives to "withstand" the techniques. 


But Obama said in his statement that the information in the memos was already "widely reported," before his administration released them. 


"The United States is a nation of laws. My administration will always act in accordance with those laws and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals. That is why we have released these memos, and that is why we have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again," he said.