April 16, 2009

Whitehouse Praises Decision to Release OLC Torture Memos

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees who has been a leading critic of the Bush Administration’s use of torture, today applauded the Obama Administration’s decision to release legal memoranda on interrogation drafted by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Whitehouse said today:

“I’m glad the Obama Administration has released these opinions. Seeing them will help Americans fully appreciate the abject failure of legal analysis at OLC and rebuild our long tradition of respect for human rights. During the dark days of the Bush Administration, this once-proud office became Dick Cheney’s little shop of legal horrors, and ignored America’s past prosecution of waterboarding through criminal trials and military tribunals.

“I am actively engaged in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program and will continue to be an advocate for disclosing what we can about this shameful period of our history. I look forward to continuing my work with Chairman Feinstein and applaud her for the Committee’s ongoing efforts to review these matters in detail.”

Whitehouse is a former U.S. Attorney and Attorney General for Rhode Island. In July 2007, he was the principal sponsor of an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill that would require the CIA and all other U.S. intelligence agencies to follow the Army Field Manual in interrogations. The manual bans waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods.

When that amendment failed in the Senate Intelligence Committee, Whitehouse joined Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and several others to fight to add the amendment during House-Senate conference negotiations on the bill. That time, it passed. President Bush vetoed the measure in March 2008.

During debate over the 2009 Intelligence Authorization bill, the Intelligence Committee again approved a Feinstein-Whitehouse amendment banning torture, as well as two other amendments prohibiting contractors from carrying out interrogations on behalf of intelligence agencies, and ending secret detentions by providing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to detainees in custody of all U.S. intelligence agencies.

Whitehouse, Feinstein, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) also introduced the provision on secret detentions as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization bill.


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