Huff Post- Dan Froomkin- First Posted: 11-11-10 03:49 PM | Updated: 11-11-10 04:01 PM
WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday joined a growing chorus in the human rights community calling for a special prosecutor to investigate whether former president George W. Bush violated federal statutes prohibiting torture.
In his new memoir and ensuing book tour, Bush has repeatedly admitted that he directly authorized the waterboarding of three terror suspects. Use of the waterboard, which creates the sensation of drowning, has been an iconic and almost universally condemned form of torture since the time of the Spanish Inquisition.
Except for a brief period during which a handful of Bush administration lawyers insisted that the exigencies of interrogating terror suspects justified its use, waterboarding has always been considered illegal by the Justice Department. It is also a clear violation of international torture conventions.
The ACLU is urging Attorney General Eric Holder to ask Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate Bush. For nearly three years now, Durham has been acting as a special prosecutor investigating a variety of torture-related matters involving government officials considerably lower on the food chain. Just this Tuesday, it was widely reported that Durham had cleared the CIA’s former top clandestine officer and others in the destruction of agency videotapes showing waterboarding of terror suspects — but that he would continue pursuing other aspects of his investigation.
“The ACLU acknowledges the significance of this request, but it bears emphasis that the former President’s acknowledgment that he authorized torture is absolutely without parallel in American history,” the group wrote in its letter to Holder.
“The admission cannot be ignored. In our system, no one is above the law or beyond its reach, not even a former president. That founding principle of our democracy would mean little if it were ignored with respect to those in whom the public most invests its trust. It would also be profoundly unfair for Mr. Durham to focus his inquiry on low-level officials charged with implementing official policy but to ignore the role of those who authorized or ordered the use of torture.”
In his new memoir, “Decision Points,” Bush recalls his thought process after CIA director George Tenet asked for permission to waterboard alleged al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in early 2003. Bush’s response: “Damn right.”