Velvet Revolution calls for dismissal of two torture architects still working in the Obama administration...

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Exclusive: Top CIA lawyers to face legal complaints over roles in interrogation program


Published: June 29, 2009 RAW STORY

Watch: During press conference, Bruce Fein says Obama 'shuts his eyes' to 'open confessions' of war crimes

A grassroots coalition will file complaints today with the Washington, D.C. bar against two Central Intelligence Agency lawyers for their involvement in authorizing the use of controversial interrogation techniques against detainees in US custody.

Velvet Revolution, a coalition of over 150 grassroots groups, will register complaints against CIA lawyers Jonathan M. Fredman and John A. Rizzo. Fredmen, who is currently counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, served as the Associate General counsel for the CIA from 2001-2004. Rizzo is the current Acting General Counsel for the CIA but is retiring this month. His nomination to become full General Counsel has been held up for years over his alleged role in enabling the CIA's controversial interrogation program.

DC lawyer and activist Kevin Zeese, along with a former Reagan administration Associate Attorney General Bruce Fein, held a press conference this morning at the National Press Club in which they discussed the complaints they will be filing later today.

The complaints to be filed against Fredmen and Rizzo describe the role both men played in authorizing the CIA to use techniques generally considered torture against detainees in US custody, captured during the Bush administration.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano, in a statement to RAW STORY Monday, said, "We'll give this the attention it deserves."

A call placed to the Director of National Intelligence's office was not immediately returned.

Detainee Crucified

Among the more startling revelations during the press conference today was an article describing how a detainee in Iraq had been "essentially crucified" during CIA interrogation.

According to a June 22 article in The New Yorker magazine, cited during the press conference today, an Iraqi prisoner in US custody was crucified - dying from asphyxiation while hanging from his arms during a CIA interrogation.

"An Iraqi prisoner named Manadel al-Jamadi died on November 4, 2003, while being interrogated by the C.I.A. at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad," the New Yorker's Jane Meyer wrote. "A forensic examiner found that he had essentially been crucified; he died from asphyxiation after having been hung by his arms, in a hood, and suffering broken ribs. Military pathologists classified the case a homicide."

No charges have been sought against the interrogators from the CIA who participated in the death of al-Jamadi or CIA officers involved in other cases.

Zeese, the Velvet Revolution, the Bill of Rights Committee, Fein, and others also called on the dismissal of both Fredman and Rizzo from the Obama administration during the press conference today.

Rizzo is already on his way out. But the man nominated by President Obama, former Justice Department lawyer Stephen W. Preston, was loath to criticize his predecessor or the CIA's activities during his May confirmation hearing.

Questioned whether he felt waterboarding constituted torture, Preston answered, "I have not reached that conclusion."

Zeese said the "rule of law" must be applied in the case of the two men who led the CIA's legal efforts.

"We call for dismissal of two torture architects still working in the Obama administration," said Zeese. "The United States must face the reality of the extent of the torture program under the Bush-Cheney administration. War crimes were committed. The toxic poison of torture will not be removed from the body politic unless the rule of law is applied."

Rizzo Complaint

John A. Rizzo has been a CIA lawyer for roughly 30 years. The Los Angeles Times has called him the "most influential career lawyer in CIA history, having risen to the top of the agency's legal ranks while leaving his mark on classified programs from proxy wars in Central America to Predator strikes in Pakistan."

Rizzo is currently the Acting General Counsel for the CIA and was Deputy General Counsel for the CIA prior to his current role. The complaint, which will be filed with the DC bar today, cites Rizzo's authority as legal counsel in authorizing torture techniques.

"Specifically," it reads, "Mr. Rizzo ignored over two centuries of historical and legal precedents, fell short of the bar of the 'good faith' imperative, and advanced suspect legal constructs and prescriptions for detainee interrogation well outside of legal norms, thereby providing the false cover of claimed legality for those who then engaged in acts and policies that, in fact, violated the following laws, both in letter and spirit:

1. The United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), Articles 1, 2, 3 and 16 (ratified in October 1994), implemented by Sections 2340-2340A of title 18 of the United States Code.

2. The Geneva Conventions, Article 3, (ratified in August 1955)

3. The Eighth Amendment against "cruel and unusual punishment"

4. The "Separation of Powers" constructs and imperatives of the U.S. Constitution

5. The United States Criminal Code, Title 18, Prohibitions Against Torture (18 USC 2340A) and War Crimes (18 USC 2441)

The complaint against Rizzo further cites examples in which Rizzo allegedly participated in meetings authorizing torture or authored approval of certain techniques.

"On September 25, the most high-level senior Bush administration lawyers met at the Guantanamo Bay facility and included legal counsel from the President's office (Alberto Gonzales), the Vice-President's office (David Addington), the Department of Defense (Michael J. Haynes II), and the Department of Justice (Alice Fisher)," it reads. "With Mr. Rizzo representing the CIA which was overseeing the program, this group was there to observe and "green light" a brutal interrogation program, one that had begun months before with Zubadayah but was continued in a carefully prescribed program (minus waterboarding) with detainees at Guantanamo Bay."

The full complaint can be read here.

Fredman Complaint

Fredman, meanwhile, was senior counsel within the Counterterrorism Center at the CIA during the Bush administration. According to the complaint, "Fredman approved a policy of torture and oversaw the details of its carefully prescribed application of violence, intimidation and humiliation intended to 'enhance' interrogations and aggressively coerce detainees at Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Abu Ghraib (Iraq), Bagram AFB (Afghanistan), and 'extraordinary rendition' or 'black' sites in Thailand, Diego Garcia, Poland, Syria, Egypt and elsewhere."

The complaint against Fredman also cites alleged involvement in authoring legal opinions and participating in meetings where these techniques were decided on.

"According to the first of two May 10, 2005 "Bradbury memos" addressed from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) of the Department of Justice to Mr. Rizzo at the CIA, the so-called "enhanced techniques" included dietary manipulation, forced nudity, stress positions, abdominal slaps and waterboarding," the complaint says. "The second May 10th memo addressed the use of combinations of these techniques. Together with the August 2002 memo authored by John Yoo and Jay Bybee, these memos set forth both the claim of legality and detailed guidelines for a brutal and abusive program of detainee treatment. This legal analysis, approved and advanced within the CIA by Mr. Rizzo and Mr. Fredman at CTC, gave the formal 'in-writing' green light to a program that led to documented abuses and scores of deaths within the detainee/interrogation system."

The full Fredman complaint is available here.

Velvet Revolution and other groups filed similar complaints against Bush administration lawyers on May 18 with the state bars of DC, New York, California, Texas and Pennsylvania.

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