Tortured Logic: Will Obama's DOJ Enforce The Rule Of Law For Bush Officials?

(Suzanne Ito writes for and manages Blog of Rights, the blog of the national ACLU.)

June 26 of this year marked the International Day in Support of Torture Victims, and the anniversary of the United Nations' Convention Against Torture. On that day, the ACLU joined countless other human rights groups in calling for Accountability for Torture. We asked people to send Attorney General Eric Holder the Office of Legal Counsel memos—the actual evidence released through ACLU lawsuits that revealed the fact that high-level Bush administration officials had sanctioned these illegal acts—and urged him to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate these crimes.

We were pleased when Newsweek's Daniel Klaidman reported that Holder was indeed considering an investigation. But now a month has passed, we haven't heard much from the Justice Department. So last week, the ACLU renewed its call for accountability by launching a new video, featuring director Oliver Stone, composer Philip Glass, Rosie Perez, and many others reading from the torture memos, and calling for accountability.

The public knows that detainees were tortured during the Bush presidency. From the photos from Abu Ghraib, to congressional reports (PDF), to the torture memos themselves, it's crystal-clear that these abusive interrogation practices were authorized by the highest levels of the Bush administration. Even Dick Cheney couldn't resist a little cheerleading about how effective he thought waterboarding was.

It is a core premise of American democracy that no one—not even the president—is above the law. When we hear Attorney General Holder is considering only investigating those who carried out the torture, not those who authorized the torture in the first place, it sickens us to think how this clashes with the most fundamental American ideals of fairness. Too much evidence of high-level orders exists to limit criminal investigations to "a few bad apples." We cannot compromise the rule of law because we're afraid the outcome might be politically messy, inconvenient or even painful. To not investigate is to tell future presidents and their administrations that they're above the law, and that would render our system of justice meaningless.

So please watch the video, and send it to Attorney General Holder. It's time for a comprehensive investigation of the Bush era torture policies.

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