THE BLOG
05/29/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ten Ways to Bring the Bush Administration's Torture Ten to Justice (and One Way to Avoid)

The release of the so-called torture memos and resulting coverage in the mainstream press has brought new momentum to our longstanding campaign to bring key figures from the Bush administration to justice for their roles as masterminds in the expanding torture scandal.

There is a noticeable lack of bravery and integrity among the promoters and enablers of torture -- none of whom have come forward to simply admit that they performed illegal acts because they thought it was the right thing to do, and are willing to submit personally to the consequences of making their case to a judge or jury. This is called civil disobedience in the honorable sense.

President Obama's Justice Department should indict and then prosecute decision makers -- legal and executive -- who enabled and ordered torture. By our counting, Mr. Holder's attention should turn immediately to those we can consider the Torture Ten: Dick Cheney, David Addington, John Ashcroft, Condi Rice, John Yoo, Donald Rumsfeld, Jay Bybee, William J. Haynes II, George Tenet, and Alberto Gonzales. Are these self-styled patriots afraid of the American system of justice?

While citizens across the country call for accountability, it is worrisome that even the most outraged of our leaders inside the beltway are calling only for the familiar bipartisan truth commission to "investigate."

Such a commission is most likely to be used as a platform for posturing to the media and will trade grants of immunity for any actual accountability. We should not even consider it unless all other measures are off the table.

Short of doing nothing, a bipartisan commission is the single worst tactic and the least likely to deter future crimes. Lacking a miracle, such a commission will merely enable posturing before the media, offer broad immunity to criminals in exchange for testimony, and lead to any number of outcomes that fall far short of actual accountability. But of most consequence, relying on a commission will almost certainly mean that in the future, our leaders will once again torture in our name.

There are ten strategies (other than a toothless bipartisan truth commission) to bring the Torture Ten and their accomplices to justice. Indictment and prosecution by Holder is at the top of the list, but there are other tactics that any concerned American can pursue in parallel to assure the Torture Ten face some measure of justice.

1. Attorney General Eric Holder should appoint a special prosecutor to investigate, and, if warranted, indict and prosecute the Torture Ten. Think U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

2. The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. John Conyers, should draw up articles of impeachment for federal appellate court judge Jay Bybee, the author of some of the worst torture memoranda. Usefully, the judiciary committee can compel testimony under oath whether articles of impeachment are approved or not.

3. Review, word by word, any testimony under oath by the Torture Ten before Congress or the 9/11 Commission for perjury. It is not an accident that the Bush Administration sought to avoid having its representatives swear to tell the truth, but they were often forced to do so, and no doubt they lied.

4. All lawyers who helped create the legal architecture for the illegal torture program -- including Jay Bybee, John Yoo, William J. Haynes II and David Addington to name the most prominent -- should be disbarred. This is a disciplinary process overseen by any state bar that licenses a particular lawyer, and can be initiated by a complaint by another lawyer or a legal organization. (A successful rightwing campaign resulted in the state bar of Arkansas revoking former President Bill Clinton's license to practice law shortly after he left office.)

5. Students and alumni should protest any honorary degrees that might be provided to the Torture Ten by colleges and universities. Campaign tactics could include sending a pre-emptive letter to the presidential leadership of the nation's institutions of higher education, as well as responding after the fact if a torture leader is announced as the recipient of an honorary degree.

6. Consumers and stockholders should not stand by and allow any publicly held company to hire a member of the Torture Ten, especially in the position of legal counsel. Chevron for example has done this with Pentagon torture architect William J. Haynes II who bears responsibility for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Shareholder actions can be launched to demand the removal of any torture leader in the employ of a major corporation.

7. There must be continued release of detailed information on the torture regime via documents from the Red Cross, whistleblowers, the Justice Department, White House emails, and so forth. Relentless investigative reporting and litigation will be required to make this happen.

8. Citizens must embolden the press to ask tough questions of the Torture Ten and their prominent apologists when they appear in public -- and hold them accountable when they do not. No softball questions should be allowed.

9. We must support the public appearances and investigative costs of the finest investigative writers who bring torture abuses to light, including Mark Danner, Jane Mayer, and Marcy Wheeler. When the public learns what was done in their name -- even as Mr. Bush repeatedly denied it -- they become angry and will join the demand for justice.

10. Religious denominations must adopt as official policy that torture is a sin. Congregation leaders, particularly those at churches attended by the Torture Ten, must preach sermons on the subject that are unflinching and widely covered in the press.

Our nation's honor is at stake. Those who choose to ignore the transgressions of the past doom future generations to suffer mightily.


Michael Kieschnick is the president and Becky Bond is the political director of CREDO Mobile.