For the last 13 years, the ACLU has been a steadfast proponent of justice for those who ordered and carried out torture, but now that the Senate Intelligence Committee report has been release, Executive Director Anthony Romero is suddenly calling for Obama to pardon Bush and other top officials responsible for it.
But with the impending release of the report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have come to think that President Obama should issue pardons, after all — because it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal.
That officials at the highest levels of government authorized and ordered torture is not in dispute. Mr. Bush issued a secret order authorizing the C.I.A. to build secret prisons overseas. The C.I.A. requested authority to torture prisoners in those “black sites.” The National Security Council approved the request. And the Justice Department drafted memos providing the brutal program with a veneer of legality.
My organization and others have spent 13 years arguing for accountability for these crimes. We have called for the appointment of a special prosecutor or the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, or both. But those calls have gone unheeded. And now, many of those responsible for torture can’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has run out…
But let’s face it: Mr. Obama is not inclined to pursue prosecutions — no matter how great the outrage, at home or abroad, over the disclosures — because of the political fallout. He should therefore take ownership of this decision. He should acknowledge that the country’s most senior officials authorized conduct that violated fundamental laws, and compromised our standing in the world as well as our security. If the choice is between a tacit pardon and a formal one, a formal one is better. An explicit pardon would lay down a marker, signaling to those considering torture in the future that they could be prosecuted.
Mr. Obama could pardon George J. Tenet for authorizing torture at the C.I.A.’s black sites overseas, Donald H. Rumsfeld for authorizing the use of torture at the Guantánamo Bay prison, David S. Addington, John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee for crafting the legal cover for torture, and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for overseeing it all…
The spectacle of the president’s granting pardons to torturers still makes my stomach turn. But doing so may be the only way to ensure that the American government never tortures again. Pardons would make clear that crimes were committed; that the individuals who authorized and committed torture were indeed criminals; and that future architects and perpetrators of torture should beware. Prosecutions would be preferable, but pardons may be the only viable and lasting way to close the Pandora’s box of torture once and for all.
If your only option is pardoning the torturers, you know something is terribly wrong. As we all know, impunity for torture is indefensible. We still need the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor — it’s more important than ever that there is accountability for torture.
For over a decade, the American people have demanded to know about post-9/11 torture conducted in our names. Today, we finally have some answers.
The Senate just released its summary report detailing widespread and illegal CIA torture during the Bush years. Over a hundred people were abused and tortured by the CIA and its contractors, often in secret prisons, set up in countries such as Poland, Romania, and Thailand.
Now that we have additional evidence of the wrongs committed in our name, we must demand accountability. We’re calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation of the torture program…
In our system, no one should be above the law or beyond its reach, no matter how senior the official. Although some lower-level military personnel were prosecuted for their roles in the torture program, none of the officials who authorized the use of torture or oversaw its implementation have ever been charged with a crime.
Now that more secrets have finally seen the light of day, it’s time to pursue justice and accountability. As the United States has repeatedly told other nations that commit human rights violations, a nation cannot move forward without accounting for the abuses of the past. Accountability is necessary for our country to regain its damaged moral authority, and to prevent the same wrongs from being committed again.
The Senate torture report makes clear that the torture program violated the Constitution and our criminal laws. This is our opportunity to urge a full criminal investigation of all those responsible for the torture program.
Accountability for torture today is critical for stopping it tomorrow.
So they’re arguing that accountability must happen in order to stop more torture in the future while simultaneously calling for those responsible for torture to be pardoned, which means no accountability. And this argument about appointing a special prosecutor is nonsensical. A special prosecutor’s job is to prosecute, which can’t be done if the people being investigated have already been pardoned. I don’t know what the hell they’re smoking at ACLU headquarters these days, but it’s time to put down the bong.