Politics

Obama announces release of Bush-era OLC torture memos.

President Obama announced this afternoon in a written statement that the Justice Department is releasing memos from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) between 2002 and 2005 which “speak to techniques that were used in the interrogation of terrorism suspects.” In his statement, Obama laid out his reasoning for making the memos public and announced that his administration would not seek to prosecute individuals who “who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice”:

First, the interrogation techniques described in these memos have already been widely reported. Second, the previous Administration publicly acknowledged portions of the program – and some of the practices – associated with these memos. Third, I have already ended the techniques described in the memos through an Executive Order. Therefore, withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that have been in the public domain for some time. This could contribute to an inaccurate accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States.

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.

Attorney General Eric Holder issued a parallel statement in which he not only promised not to pursue prosecutions but also to provide representation “in any state or federal judicial or administrative proceeding brought against” any CIA employee who acted “reasonably” upon the advice of the OLC. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) responded to the release by reiterating his desire to hold a “Commission of Inquiry” into the Bush administration’s use of torture in order to gain a “thorough accounting of what happened.” Read the memos here.

UPDATE

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers issued a statement praising the release of the memos:

This release, as well as the decision to ban the use of such techniques in the future, will strengthen both our national security and our commitment to the rule of law and help restore our country’s standing in the international community. The legal analysis and some of the techniques in these memos are truly shocking and mark a disturbing chapter in our nation’s history.

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