Advocacy Groups Say Torture Memo Authors Should Be Disbarred

07/30/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

WASHINGTON — A coalition of advocacy groups is asking the District of Columbia and New York bar associations to disbar three government attorneys for approving and enabling the CIA's harsh interrogation program.

The groups are asking the legal panels to revoke the district law licenses of acting CIA general counsel John Rizzo and former CIA Counterterrorism Center chief counsel Jonathan Fredman, and the New York license of former CIA General Counsel Scott W. Muller.

Rizzo is still at the CIA but is due to be replaced this week. Fredman is a CIA employee currently assigned to the Office of Director of National Intelligence' policy, plans, and requirements directorate. Muller is now in private practice in New York.

The groups allege that the three attorneys approved and advocated the Bush-era CIA interrogation program that included waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning that President Barack Obama has called torture.

"These lawyers have no business practicing law, especially under salary in the federal government, given their involvement in furthering the torture of detainees," said Kevin Zeese, a board member of Velvet Revolution, a coalition of more than 50 organizations and hundreds of individuals who oppose the CIA's interrogation program.

The CIA is standing behind the attorneys.

"This, to put it mildly, is something with which we do not agree," said CIA spokesman George Little.

The national intelligence director's office declined to comment. Muller did not immediately respond to inquiries.

The disbarment request comes the same week the CIA is expected to release a 2004 internal report from its inspector general that criticized the interrogation program.

In May, Velvet Revolution requested the disbarment of 12 senior Bush administration officials. Among them were former Bush attorney generals John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey; former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff; and former Justice lawyers John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Stephen Bradbury, whose legal opinions provided legal justifications for harsh interrogations.

The earlier request is on hold at the Board on Professional Responsibility in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals pending a review by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, said Bruce Fein, a former Reagan administration associate deputy attorney general now working with Velvet Revolution.