Press Release

RELEASE: Command Responsibility

By Mark Agrast, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

When the nation learned that prisoners detained and interrogated after 9/11 had been tortured by U.S. personnel, the Bush administration sought to portray these episodes as a rogue operation or, at best, the actions of “a few bad apples.”

 That explanation was called into question when the public learned that the legality of the interrogation policy had been extensively debated within the administration, and that the Office of Legal Counsel had issued—and abruptly repudiated—a series of secret legal memoranda certifying the legality of interrogation methods so extreme that past administrations had prosecuted them as war crimes.

Now we learn through press reports that far from being a rogue operation, the use of torture was discussed at great length and in excruciating detail by senior advisors to the president and was approved at the highest levels of our government.

If these reports are accurate, they confirm that: (a) the authorization to engage in torture emanated directly from the White House; and (b) the spurious legal memoranda were generated at the behest of the White House to shield not only those who carried out acts of extreme brutality but those who authorized them as well.

The new reports give fresh urgency to calls for a full congressional investigation into these matters. Only when Congress and the American people have a thorough accounting of what took place can our nation begin to undo the damage that has been done to the rule of law, at home and throughout the world.