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Draft Letter for Congress Members to Send to Eric Holder


Hon. Eric Holder
Attorney General of the United States

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

On June 6, 2008, 56 members of Congress wrote to then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The letter read as follows:

We are writing to request that you appoint a special counsel to investigate whether the Bush Administration's policies regarding the interrogation of detainees have violated federal criminal laws. There is mounting evidence that the Bush Administration has sanctioned enhanced interrogation techniques against detainees under the control of the United States that warrant an investigation.

Congress is already aware of a pattern of abuse against detainees under the control of the United States and the Bush Administration. In 2004, prisoners being held at Abu Ghraib prison were subjected to abuse, sexual exploitation and torture. At the Guantanamo Bay Detention facility, prisoners have been held indefinitely, subjected to sleep deprivation, and drugged against their will. An independent investigation by the International Committee of the Red Cross documented several instances of acts of torture against detainees, including soaking a prisoner's hand in alcohol and lighting it on fire, subjecting a prisoner to sexual abuse, and forcing a prisoner to eat a baseball. In October 2005, the New York Times reported that three detainees were killed during interrogations in Afghanistan and Iraq by CIA agents or CIA contractors.

We believe that these events alone warrant action, but within the last month additional information has surfaced that suggests the fact that not only did top Administration officials meet in the White House and approve the use of enhanced techniques including waterboarding against detainees, but that President Bush was aware of, and approved of the meetings taking place. This information indicates that the Bush Administration may have systematically implemented, from the top down, detainee interrogation policies that constitute torture or otherwise violate the law. We believe that these serious and significant revelations warrant an immediate investigation to determine whether actions taken by the President, his Cabinet, and other Administration officials are in violation of the War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. 2441), the Anti-Torture Act, (18 U.S.C. 2340-2340A), and other U.S. and international laws.

Despite the seriousness of the evidence, the Justice Department has brought prosecution against only one civilian for an interrogation-related crime. Given that record, we believe that it is necessary to appoint a special counsel in order to ensure that a thorough and impartial investigation occurs, and that the prosecution of anyone who violated federal criminal statutes prohibiting torture and abuse is pursued if warranted by the facts.

Again, we strongly urge that you act in a timely manner to appoint a special counsel. We look forward to hearing from you in response to our request.

The Justice Department, prior to your confirmation as Attorney General, did not in fact take any steps we are aware of to pursue this matter.

Since that letter was sent, new evidence has emerged, including an extensive report by the International Committee of the Red Cross documenting the torture of prisoners. On December 15, 2008, Richard Cheney, and on January 11, 2009 (as well as April 11, 2008), George W. Bush, made statements in televised interviews that appeared to admit to the authorization of torture. Also in January 2009 Susan J. Crawford, the convening authority for the Guantanamo military commissions, said that the United States had engaged in torture.

Reports from alleged victims, as well as from their jailers and torturers, continue to multiply. Memos documenting the systematic policy of torture have been released by your department. The Senate Armed Services Committee has released a report detailing the authorization of torture by former President George W. Bush and his subordinates. We have learned that the CIA destroyed 92 "interrogation" tapes, and we have a good idea from the Red Cross report what was on them.

Our failure thus far to prosecute torture, as required by the Convention Against Torture, is hurting our relationships with and our ability to influence other nations that we hope to dissuade from engaging in similar crimes.

Italy is trying U.S. officials in absentia for kidnapping a man in their country and having him tortured. Britain has begun a criminal investigation of its own complicity in U.S. torture. And Spain is pursuing criminal indictments against six former high ranking officials in the Bush administration.

We would benefit in numerous ways from obeying the requirements of the law and appointing a special counsel to enforce our own laws without delay. Please take this critical step.

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