Comment On The Release Of Documents From The Office Of Legal Counsel

The Bush administration not only ran roughshod over our values and law, they undercut the public trust of the American people and tarnished American’s prestige and authority throughout the world.   The Department of Justice has now released an unredacted Office of Legal Counsel memo written by Jay Bybee in 2002 memo as well as three more memos written in 2005 by acting OLC head Steven Bradbury. 

These legal memoranda demonstrate in alarming detail exactly what the Bush administration authorized for “high value detainees” in U.S. custody.  The techniques are chilling.  This was not an “abstract legal theory,” as some former Bush administration officials have characterized it.  These were specific techniques authorized to be used on real people. 

I have fought for these documents for years, and when the Bush administration continued to stonewall this Committee, I issued a subpoena.  Unfortunately, the content of these memos is as alarming as I feared it would be.  The inadequate legal justifications by our own Department of Justice for these practices disregards both our domestic laws and our treaty obligations, and underscores why we must take a full accounting of what has been done in the name of national security. 

The Office of Legal Counsel issues legal opinions that are binding on the executive branch.  With this awesome power comes the responsibility to provide objective unbiased advice – and to get it right.  We cannot continue to look the other way; we need to understand how these policies were formed if we are to ensure that this can never happen again.  This is why my proposal for a Commission of Inquiry is necessary.  We must take a thorough accounting of what happened, not to move a partisan agenda, but to own up to what was done in the name of national security, and to learn from it.  This is another step in that direction.  I appreciate the White House notifying me about this release and I commend the President for making these documents public.

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