April 16, 2009, New York – In response to President Obama’s decision to guarantee immunity to CIA officials who carried out the drowning torture known as waterboarding, which his attorney general has classified as torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:
“It is one of the deepest disappointments of this administration that it appears unwilling to uphold the law where crimes have been committed by former officials. Whether or not CIA operatives who conducted waterboarding are guaranteed immunity, it is the high level officials who conceived, justified and ordered the torture program who bear the most responsibility for breaking domestic and international law, and it is they who must be prosecuted. In the President’s statement today, the most troubling contradiction is the contrast of the words, ‘This is a time for reflection, not retribution,’ followed shortly by, ‘The United States is a nation of laws.’ Government officials broke very serious laws: for there to be no consequences not only calls our system of justice into question, it leaves the gate open for this to happen again.”
Since the first days of the public revelations regarding the Bush administration’s torture program, the Center for Constitutional Rights has made efforts to hold high level officials and their lawyers accountable for their crimes. CCR, along with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), has tried three times, twice in Germany and once in France, to bring criminal cases in Europe against former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet, and former White House Counsel/Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as well as the other lawyers who were part of the conspiracy that authorized the torture program in Guantanamo, Iraq, secret CIA sites, and elsewhere. The German case is still pending. CCR also has torture cases pending in U.S. courts.
For more information on the German case, visit the German war crimes complaint against Rumsfeld page. Also see CCR's factsheet on accountability and prosecutions for torture.