On Thursday, the Department of Justice released “four secret memos used by the Bush administration to justify torture.” The ACLU is calling for the DoJ to “appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate torture under the Bush administration.”
The memos describe “brutal interrogation techniques” used by the C.I.A.:
In dozens of pages of dispassionate legal prose, the methods approved by the Bush administration for extracting information from senior operatives of Al Qaeda are spelled out in careful detail — like keeping detainees awake for up to 11 straight days, placing them in a dark, cramped box or putting insects into the box to exploit their fears.
The interrogation methods were authorized beginning in 2002, and some were used as late as 2005 in the C.I.A.’s secret overseas prisons. The techniques were among the Bush administration’s most closely guarded secrets, and the documents released Thursday afternoon were the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the program.
The C.I.A. officers involved have been granted immunity from prosecution. Marc Ambinder notes:
President Obama has endorsed this concept, and so has his attorney general, but today, alongside the release of Bush-era documents justifying the CIA torture program, the Justice Department will make clear that no CIA officers or officials who IN GOOD FAITH relied on the memos to interrogate prisoners will be subject to criminal prosecution, according to the AP. This is a victory for the CIA, which had been seeking a formal, public statement for its case officers, and which had been worried that the document’s disclosures could subject many of them to future prosecution. Now, even if Congress launches investigations, the CIA will be, more or less, safe.
President Obama’s statement on the release of the memos is here. David Axelrod told Politico that “President Barack Obama spent about a month pondering whether to release Bush-era memos about CIA interrogation techniques, and considered it “a weighty decision.””
“He thought very long and hard about it, consulted widely, because there were two principles at stake,” Axelrod said . “One is … the sanctity of covert operations … and keeping faith with the people who do them, and the impact on national security, on the one hand. And the other was the law and his belief in transparency.”