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MoveOn Enters Torture Fray, Calls For Special Prosecutor

First Posted: 05/21/09 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 02:15 PM ET

Waterboarding

MoveOn.org will enter the debate over torture investigations on Tuesday, asking its members to call on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the architects of the Bush administration's program of detainee torture.

The foray represents a new direction for MoveOn, which has previously been focused on pushing the progressive agenda - the stimulus, Obama's budget, healthcare, cap and trade - through Congress. Groups to MoveOn's left have long been critical of the organization for not making investigations and prosecutions of Bush-era criminal activity a top priority.

The call for a special prosecutor adds MoveOn's rather loud voice to the growing chorus demanding that crimes be investigated. It's also an indication that the call for accountability for those who committed crimes during the Bush administration is becoming a mainstream Democratic position, and one the White House will find harder to move past.

The group will only deliver the petition to Holder, however, if it gathers 200,000 signatures, making the call a test of the appetite of the progressive base for investigations.

On Monday, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), a senior Democrat on the judiciary committee, called for the impeachment of Jay Bybee, one of the authors of the torture memos and now a federal judge.

MoveOn makes the case that without consequences for breaking the law, rogue behavior is only encouraged. "So far there's been no accountability for the architects of Bush's torture program -- the top officials who justified keeping detainees awake for 11 days straight, waterboarding them repeatedly, and forcing prisoners into coffin-like boxes with insects," reads the letter from MoveOn to its members. "We need real consequences for those responsible -- it's the only way to keep this from happening again."

The full letter:

Subject: Bush's torture

Dear MoveOn member,

On Thursday, President Obama released memos that describe, in horrific detail, the torture techniques authorized by the Bush administration. The memos make clear that top Bush officials didn't just condone torture -- they encouraged it.

So far there's been no accountability for the architects of Bush's torture program -- the top officials who justified keeping detainees awake for 11 days straight, waterboarding them repeatedly, and forcing prisoners into coffin-like boxes with insects.1

We need real consequences for those responsible -- it's the only way to keep this from happening again. Attorney General Holder can open an investigation into the torture program -- but he most likely won't unless people everywhere speak up and demand it.

Can you sign our petition to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the torture program? If we can reach 200,000 signatures, we'll deliver the petition to Holder by the end of the week. Clicking here will sign your name:

http://pol.moveon.org/torture/

The petition says: "No one is above the law. It's time to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute the architects of the Bush-era torture program."

Calls for action, from the United Nations, the ACLU, Amnesty International,2 Senators Leahy and Feingold, and others, are gathering steam. The New York Times made the case for accountability yesterday:3

"...[Obama] has an obligation to pursue what is clear evidence of a government policy sanctioning the torture and abuse of prisoners "in violation of international law and the Constitution."

This isn't about retribution or politics. It's about accountability. If hundreds of thousands of us speak up, we can make sure Holder hears this loud and clear.

Thanks for all you do.

Nita, Kat, Carrie, Ilyse, and the rest of the team

Sources:

1. "Interrogation Memos Detail Harsh Tactics by the C.I.A.," The New York Times, April 17, 2009.

2. "Opposition Grows To Obama's Decision Not To Prosecute CIA Agents," The Huffington Post, April 19, 2009.

3. "A Torturers' Manifesto," The New York Times, April 19, 2009.

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