February 19, 2010

Durbin and Whitehouse React to Report on Torture Authorizations

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today reacted to the release of a report on the Office of Professional Responsibility’s (OPR) investigation of Justice Department attorneys who provided legal advice regarding waterboarding and other abusive interrogation techniques for the Bush Administration. Whitehouse and Durbin first requested the investigation in a February 12, 2008 letter to OPR and the Office of Inspector General during the previous Administration.

“The OPR report exhaustively documents the shameful process by which senior Bush Administration officials authorized the use of torture techniques that the United States has always condemned and prosecuted as war crimes. Our country is still recovering from the damage this did to our national security and our image around the world,” said Durbin. “Mr. Bybee and Mr. Yoo may keep their law licenses, but they will not escape the verdict of history. I want to commend Attorney General Holder for handling this highly-sensitive issue in an apolitical and transparent fashion. He accepted the recommendation of a career Justice Department attorney, which his predecessor was unwilling to do, and he provided the OPR report to Congress, which his predecessor refused to do.”

“The documents made public today shed additional light on the shoddy legal foundation for the Bush Administration’s use of torture, which was unlawful, immoral, and made America less safe,” said Whitehouse. “Attorneys at the Office of Legal Counsel are expected to meet the highest standards of excellence. As the Department’s report concludes, the OLC lawyers who authored the torture memos used at best ‘poor judgment’. The fact that the OPR initially concluded that this poor judgment amounted to professional misconduct is a sad sign of a tarnished era for the Department. Americans deserve better.”

Whitehouse continued, “I praise Attorney General Holder for providing these materials to Congress and for continuing the hard work of repairing the damage done to the Department of Justice. I look forward to more fully examining these issues at the Judiciary Committee’s hearing next week.”

Durbin and Whitehouse, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have both expressed deep concern about the use of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation techniques. They have repeatedly questioned the legality of the procedures and circumstances in which they were authorized.

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