A distinguished panel of legal scholars and practitioners held a spirited discussion today about how best to hold accountable lawyers whose legal advice provided cover for torture in the Bush administration. Watch the web cast of the discussion.
In addition to the panel, the event featured a keynote speech by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) at the event titled, “The Torture Memos: Lawyers, Ethics, and the Rule of Law” and a screening of the new film by AFJ, Tortured Law.
“We need transparency and accountability, to remember that we are not a country that acts independent of the law, even in times of fear and danger,” said Nan Aron, president, Alliance for Justice.
Daniel Levin, former Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel from 2004-2005 when the DOJ was reviewing CIA interrogation techniques, said “I personally am not opposed to criminal investigation of the conduct of myself and others during the period in question, because I think any government employee is appropriately subject to investigation of their conduct while they are serving in the government.”
Levin and the other speakers agreed that the country would benefit from the establishment of a national commission to investigate the facts about the use of torture.
The investigation of the conduct of the lawyers by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility was discussed at length, and several panelists and Senator Whitehouse agreed that releasing OPR’s report on that inquiry was an important first step in determining whether laws were broken.
“We still don’t know all the facts. Information has emerged in bits and pieces over the last several years, thanks to extensive litigation by civil liberties advocates and to the selected release of certain documents by the Obama Administration,” Aron said.
“On Friday the government dumped hundreds more documents about interrogation and detainee policies pursuant to a court order, adding more insight to how detainee abuse developed and was legally justified,” Aron continued. “But so long as the record is incomplete and disjointed, the evidence that emerges raises more questions than it answers – which is all the more reason why Holder should promote full transparency and take the important first step of releasing the OPR report.”