US Releases 4 More ‘Torture’ Memos, Promises Defense to CIA Workers
Posted Apr 16, 2009 2:54 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
The U.S. Department of Justice today released four more Office of Legal Counsel memos providing legal advice to the CIA from 2002 to 2005, as Attorney General Eric Holder promised a free defense and potential indemnification to any CIA employee facing investigation for conduct approved by these memos.
"The President has halted the use of the interrogation techniques described in these opinions, and this administration has made clear from day one that it will not condone torture," says Attorney General Eric Holder in a press release. "We are disclosing these memos consistent with our commitment to the rule of law."
In the release, Holder promises a full defense to any CIA employees who may be investigated or charged, in a U.S. or foreign court, in Congress or administratively, as a result of conduct approved by the memos. He also says that the government will indemnify CIA employees—"to the extent permissible under federal law," as the release puts it—for related monetary judgments or penalties.
The AG's statement should preclude prosecution here in the U.S. of CIA employees who engaged in "waterboarding" of terrorism suspects that many consider tantamount to torture, writes the Associated Press.
"The statement being issued Thursday by Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's chief law enforcement officer, is the first definitive assurance that those CIA officials are in the clear, as long as their actions were in line with the legal advice at the time," the news agency writes.
The American Civil Liberties Union provides links to the four OLC opinions that have just been released. It filed a Freedom of Information Act case seeking the memos, and has called for the DOJ to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate what the ACLU describes as torture by the U.S. during the Bush administration.
In another press release about the OLC memos, President Barack Obama said exceptional circumstances required making them public, both to confirm what had long been suspected and to put an end to "erroneous and inflammatory assumptions," reports the Washington Post.
However, he and Holder have shown little interest in pursuing potential legal action concerning the treatment of terrorism suspects, the newspaper writes. "This is a time for reflection, not retribution," Obama says in his statement today.
"We have to look back before we can move forward as a nation. When crimes have been committed, the American legal system demands accountability," responds Anthony Romero, the ACLU's executive director, in a press release.
Whether to enforce the nation's laws shouldn't be a political decision, and "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," Romero continues. "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."
ABAJournal.com: "‘Holy Hell’ Breaks Lose Over Possible Disclosure of Torture Memos"
ABAJournal.com: "Lawyer Challenges Former AG to Face Spanish Torture Charges"
Reuters: "Spain attorney general against Guantanamo probe"