Amidst growing calls for a full investigation of torture of detainees in American custody, John Yoo, author of the most infamous of the Bush Department of Justice "torture memos," cancelled his scheduled appearance at the Federalist Society Convention, which starts today in Washington, DC. Yoo - who is currently the subject of a DOJ ethics inquiry, the defendant in a civil lawsuit brought by Jose Padilla seeking damages for torture, and a likely future target of any full criminal investigation of torture - was slated to speak on a panel discussing professional ethics among government national security lawyers. Yoo's withdrawal shows that pressure is building to hold accountable those who provided legal cover for torture.
Call it a coincidence, but Yoo cancelled his trip to Washington where we are organizing human rights supporters to rally as part of our National Torture Accountability Day of Action. Today we are mobilizing activists around the country to call Attorney General Holder at DOJ and release the internal DOJ ethics review of the lawyers, John Yoo included, who authorized the Bush-era torture policies.
From 2002 to 2007, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) sanctioned acts of torture committed by members of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) against detained suspected terrorists. These acts of torture were outlined and authorized in a series of secret "torture memos" drafted by Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury, senior lawyers in the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).
Over the last several years, reporters, authors, lawyers, and activists have secured the release of some of the "torture memos" and uncovered other information about the OLC torture policies. Based on this still-incomplete record, it is indisputable that detainees in U.S. custody were tortured, and the United States' reputation in the world suffered as a result. But we still do not have the complete record of what led our country to torture. Many questions remain about how it came to be that government lawyers, with a sworn duty to serve as the "constitutional conscience" of the administration, provided legal cover for torture, corrupting the integrity of the Department of Justice in the process.
Attorney General Holder is currently sitting on some of those answers. In 2004, the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), the department's internal ethics review board, began an inquiry to determine whether Yoo, Bybee, and Bradbury committed any ethical violations in producing the "torture memos." Five years later, DOJ still has not released the OPR's report, even though news has leaked that a draft was finished nearly a year ago. According to news reports, a draft was finished in late 2008, but then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, in an effort to delay its release, decided to grant Yoo, Bybee, and Bradbury the opportunity to provide written comments in response. On multiple occasions over the course of this year, Attorney General Holder has stated that the report would be finished "soon" - and yet we're now into November and it still has not been made public.
President Obama has ended the torture practices against suspected terrorists. Yet American democracy and the rule of law rest on the principles of transparency and accountability. Americans have a right to know the facts about what U.S. government lawyers did to provide legal cover for torture, and those who violated their ethical or legal duties must be held accountable.
Attorney General Holder can begin the process of restoring the rule of law and American values by releasing the OPR Report. Momentum is building to urge Attorney General Holder to hold the "torture memo" authors accountable - and transparency is an important first step toward accountability. The Bush administration turned America into a nation that tortures, and we have a right to know what was done, what laws were broken, and hold those who are responsible accountable so this never happens again. Only by knowing the facts can our nation move forward and take the necessary actions to uphold the Constitution and the law.
Alliance for Justice and CREDO Action have mobilized over 10,000 activists to sign our petition urging Attorney General Holder to release the OPR Report and launch a full investigation of those who authorized torture. Today, thousands of human rights supporters are calling DOJ to demand the release of the OPR Report.
Join Alliance for Justice in urging Attorney General Holder to release the OPR Report and conduct a full-scale investigation of those who ordered, designed, and justified torture. Call Attorney General Holder and urge him to take the first step towards accountablity by releasing the report on the authors of the "torture memos."
Visit our website, www.afj.org/torture, for more information about the role of government lawyers in providing legal cover for torture, and sign our petition asking Attorney General Holder to investigate torture to the full extent of the law.