Obama Admin Releases Bush OLC Torture Memos

20 Apr


There was a lot of angst in left wing circles as to whether President Obama would pass a major test of transparency when it came to releasing Bush Administration memos authorizing torture and describing the tactics in full.

Today is the most significant test yet determining the sincerity of Barack Obama’s commitment to restore the Constitution, transparency and the rule of law.  After seeking and obtaining multiple extensions of the deadline, today is the final deadline for the Obama DOJ to respond to the ACLU’s FOIA demand for the release of four key Bush DOJ memos which authorized specific torture techniques that have long been punished (including by the U.S.) as war crimes.  Today, Obama will either (a) disclose these documents to the public or (b) continue to suppress them — either by claiming the right to keep them concealed entirely or, more likely, redacting the most significant parts before releasing them.

Today, Obama passed this test.  He authorized the release of these documents in full (with minimal redactions) to the public.  I haven’t read through all of them as of yet, but it appears that the only redactions were the names of CIA officials and contractors who were mentioned in the report and were operating under the legal guidance of the White House.  The reason for the redactions was outlined in a statement from President Obama.

In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution. The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world. Their accomplishments are unsung and their names unknown, but because of their sacrifices, every single American is safer. We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs.

Immediately after Obama released his statement, Attorney General Eric Holder also released a statement:

Holder also stressed that intelligence community officials who acted reasonably and relied in good faith on authoritative legal advice from the Justice Department that their conduct was lawful, and conformed their conduct to that advice, would not face federal prosecutions for that conduct.

Reading between the lines, the Attorney General is indemnifying officials who acted upon the guidance but have explicitly made no mention as to any legal protections afforded to those who wrote the opinions and/or asked for them to be written.  This is a win for the rule of law.  Those who authorized these tactics should be held accountable if further Congressional investigation reveals they are necessary.

Here are the links to the memos for your download and review.

An 18-page memo [PDF], dated August 1, 2002, from Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA about torture techniques used on Abu Zubaydah.

A 46-page memo [PDF], dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA about waterboarding and other techniques.

A 20-page memo [PDF], dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA describing the techniques that could be used in combination with each other.

A 40-page memo [PDF], dated May 30, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA.

3 Responses to “Obama Admin Releases Bush OLC Torture Memos”

  1. Ethan April 20, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    It’s a great start; now let’s have some investigations & prosecutions.

    You know, as we are obliged to do via international treaties we’re signatories of!

  2. Cadillac Jack April 21, 2009 at 12:39 am #

    Wasn’t there a television program that had contestents struggling against insects like roaches, leeches, and scorpions crawling across their faces? Seems like prime time TV was an early advocate of these supposed “torture” techniques……



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    I Only Look Good By Making You Look Bad…

    With meticulous timing, the president has released documents disclosing some of the “torture” techniques used under the Bush administration.
    That’s it?  That’s all?
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