The campaign to criminalize America’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks continues apace. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling on the Justice Department to investigate George W. Bush over his just-released memoir, “Decision Points,” in which the former president says he ordered al Qaeda suspects waterboarded in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Nov. 11 letter, signed by ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, states that waterboarding is “torture” and notes that Mr. Bush says it was used on terror suspects Abu Zubaydah and self-confessed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
Elsewhere, the ACLU is urging Americans to lobby the Justice Department to investigate top Bush administration officials. On its accountability for torture website, the ACLU says:
“Last year, the Justice Department initiated a criminal investigation into the Bush administration’s torture program, but it focuses only on ‘rogue’ interrogators who disobeyed orders. That investigation is far too narrow. … the criminal investigation must be expanded to reach not only the interrogators but the senior officials who authorized torture.”
In bold type, the site calls on Americans to:
“Ask the attorney general to expand the scope of the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of the torture program to include not just the interrogators who used torture, but the senior Bush administration officials who authorized and facilitated it.”
In 2009, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing in which they grilled former Justice Department attorney John Yoo about four memos he had written about the legal limits of interrogation techniques.
In a June 17, 2009, Washington Times column, American Civil Rights Union General Counsel Peter Ferrara defended the memos:
“At the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU), a conservative alternative to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), we have reviewed the four challenged legal memos. They add up to 124 single-spaced pages of careful legal reasoning reviewing all applicable statutes, treaties, cases and word definitions and applying that law to a thorough discussion of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques used under President Bush.
“We found that those memos involve a thorough, well-reasoned, praiseworthy legal effort and analysis. We agree that their conclusions as to the legality of waterboarding and the other CIA enhanced interrogation techniques are correct under applicable law, and we are prepared to debate that point in any forum.
“… The most controversial of these techniques, waterboarding, was used on just three of the highest-level detainees, all accused senior terrorist leaders involved in major attacks on Americans and U.S. targets and [who] had information regarding planned future attacks. … It resulted in information that stopped at least two planned terrorist attacks on American soil that would have killed thousands of Americans.”
In a recent interview with NBC’s “Today Show” host Matt Lauer (excerpted on English-language Al-Jazeera), Mr. Bush defended his actions:
“One of the high-value al Qaeda operatives was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. And they said, ‘He’s got information.’ And I said, ‘Find out what he knows.’ And so I said to our team, ‘Are the techniques legal?’ and a legal team says, ‘Yes they are.’ And I said, ‘Use ‘em.’ “
Following a statement by an unnamed British legal expert who defines waterboarding as torture, Al-Jazeera correspondent Laurence Lee says: “Bush, though, seems unrepentant as ever.”
Mr. Bush: “I will tell you this. Using those techniques saved lives. My job was to protect America. And I did.”
Given the absence of any major terror incident in the United States in the seven years of the Bush administration following Sept. 11, it would be hard even for the ACLU to argue with that.
Robert Knight is senior writer for Coral Ridge Ministries and a senior fellow with the American Civil Rights Union.