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Civil rights group to Obama: Release secret Bush memos
Mike Sheehan
Published: Wednesday January 28, 2009


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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling on the Justice Department to release Bush administration documentation pertaining to torture, surveillance and other controversial national security policies.

The civil rights watchdog sent a letter today to the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, the same office that provided legal advice to the White House under George W. Bush.

The secret memos were essentially the legal foundation for many of the Bush adminstration's questionable practices, says the ACLU in a news release received by Raw Story.

The Bush White House vigorously fought the release of such revealing (some would say, damning) documentation in the interests, it insisted, of protecting national security and other factors.

The ACLU's filing of the Freedom of Information Act request follows President Obama's recent directive to minimize federal secrecy and "usher in a new era of open government."

The request is seen as a test of the freshly inaugurated president's transparency policy. "The ACLU now sees a new opening," writes Marisa Taylor of McClatchy Newspapers.

The new policy is a promise by Obama that the rights group hopes he follows through with. "President Obama should be commended" for his commitment to openness, said an ACLU director. "We're eager to see this commitment put into practice."

The release of the secret documentation will help the nation--and the world--move on from the "lawless conduct" of the Bush administration, the ACLU argues.

More details on the ACLU's pursuit of the information release is here. Excerpts from their press release today follow...

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The Justice Department continues to withhold many legal opinions, including memos purporting to allow torture and warrantless surveillance. The ACLU has previously sought the memos through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

"Releasing the memos would allow the public to better understand the legal basis for the Bush administration's national security policies; to better understand the role that the OLC played in developing, justifying, and advocating those policies; and to participate more meaningfully in the ongoing debate about national security, civil liberties, and human rights," said the ACLU in the letter.

In its letter, the ACLU called on the OLC to release, at the earliest possible date, dozens of legal memos related to interrogation, detention, rendition, surveillance and other Bush administration policies. Since 2003, the ACLU has filed three lawsuits to enforce FOIA requests seeking the OLC legal opinions and other government records. These lawsuits have resulted in the release of thousands of documents, but most of the key OLC memos are still being withheld.

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