Report May Indicate Ethical Violations by Bush Lawyers

The Open Society Institute joins leading human rights organizations in calling on U.S. Attorney General Holder to release a Bush administration report investigating the approval of torture by Justice Department lawyers.

The report highlights the findings of a Justice Department investigation examining whether legal advice sanctioning torture was consistent with professional ethical standards.

The Open Society Institute, along with 12 human rights, faith-based, and justice organizations, sent Holder a letter urging the timely release of the report, consistent with his commitment to transparency and openness.

The text of the letter is as follows:

The Honorable Eric H. Holder Jr.
Attorney General of the United States
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder:

We write to urge you to release the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) report on its investigation into Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) legal advice that authorized abusive interrogations during the post-9/11 period. Release of this report is an essential step in making a clean break with the abusive practices, excessive secrecy, and faulty legal reasoning that have marred the United States’ reputation as a country that upholds the rule of law.

We welcomed your decision to release several OLC memoranda that authorized the use of abusive and illegal interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, forced nakedness, stress positions, and exposure to frigid temperatures. But within the four corners of these legal documents is only a small part of the picture. When you released nine of the OLC memoranda in March you stated, “Americans deserve a government that operates with transparency and openness.” By releasing the OPR report you will demonstrate the administration’s continuing commitment to transparency and openness. You will also help strengthen a proper understanding of the important role played by government lawyers serving the United States.

The OLC served as a linchpin of the Bush administration’s strategy of relying on faulty legal justifications to rationalize its policy of official cruelty and to circumvent the law on humane treatment. The memos made unprecedented legal claims, ignored highly relevant case law, and

reached clearly erroneous conclusions, including that the President is not necessarily bound by statutes prohibiting torture. To prevent future abuse and to restore the proper role of the OLC in providing accurate and principled legal advice, it is imperative that the public be made fully aware of how brutal conduct came to be authorized. The American people have a right to know how the U.S. Justice Department came to issue legal opinions approving acts of cruelty that shocked the world, damaged U.S. moral authority and harmed efforts to combat terrorism effectively.

OPR began its review of this matter over four years ago. The completion of its final report is long overdue. Requests for release of the OPR report have been met with excessive delay and insufficient explanations. We urge you to release the OPR report now and send a clear message that transparency in government and adherence to the law are core American values as well as key assets to U.S. national security.

Sincerely,

American Civil Liberties Union
Amnesty International, USA
Brennan Center for Justice
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
International Center for Transitional Justice
International Justice Network
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Open Society Institute
Physicians for Human Rights
Rutherford Institute

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