America Should Not Reward Torture

Last Updated on June 27, 2017.

President Trump’s nomination of Steven Bradbury — one of the key architects of the Bush administration’s illegal torture program — to be General Counsel at the Department of Transportation is an affront to our nation’s values. Torture during the Bush administration remains a stain on American history, one that we still haven’t fully reconciled.The nomination of Bradbury to a high-level U.S. government position turns a blind eye and sets no accountability to these shameful acts, would make our country less safe, and pulls us further away from a full accounting of our disgraceful past.
Steven Bradbury has authorized and championed the use of torture, and has had a central role in the criminal violation of human rights. The “Torture Documents” on the Rendition Project describe Bradbury’s central role in authorizing the use of torture techniques while he was acting head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2005 to 2009. His legal memoranda allowed waterboarding and other forms of cruel treatments that contradict domestic and international law regarding the treatment of prisoners. These memos helped to establish an official policy of torture, and earned Bradbury a title as one of the authors of the “torture memos.”. [Bradbury Torture Memo 5/10/2005]
Bradbury’s torture techniques are disgusting, degrading, and clear violations of human rights. In his memo, Bradbury defends the use of 13 “interrogation techniques,” including “dietary manipulation,” “nudity,” “attention grasp,” “walling,” “facial hold,” “facial slap,” “abdominal slap,” “cramped confinement,” “wall standing,” “stress positions,” “water dousing,” “sleep deprivation,” and “the ‘waterboard.’” Detainees were also forced to wear diapers for extended periods of time in order to “humiliate” themselves. Bradbury defends these uses of torture by stating that they “are subject to numerous restrictions…to prevent physical distress or mental harm…” However, many of these interrogation techniques do bring harm, and they have been prosecuted by US military and civilian courts as torture. [Bradbury Torture Memo 5/10/2005; Huffington Post 6/6/2017; Politico 6/5/2017]
Steven Bradbury vigorously defended the CIA’s disastrous torture program. While testifying before the House Judiciary Committee in February 2008, Bradbury was frank in his defense of the CIA’s use of waterboarding and torture. He refused to admit that what detainees were being put through was exactly that, however. While admitting the use of interrogation techniques were “quite distressing, uncomfortable, even frightening,” He claimed that  even though waterboarding was being used, the U.S. interrogation program is rather soft when compared other cases of water torture. [Washington Post 2/17/2008]
Bradbury undermined objective and independent counsel: ‘The President is always right.’ During questioning about former President Bush’s interpretation of the law of war, Bradbury failed to give his own critical and objective analysis. Instead, he conceded that “the President is always right.” Furthermore, White House officials chose Bradbury for the Office of Legal Counsel for the sole reason of his wanting “the job too much… [that] he won’t give you any independent advice,” but rather rubber-stamp Bush’s plans, according to Daniel Levin, the Assistant Attorney General. [Think Progress 7/12/2006; “The Dark Side” by Jane Mayer]
Bradbury evaded congressional intent and duly enacted federal law, and misrepresented the views of members of Congress. The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 prohibits “cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment” of any prisoner of the U.S. Government, including those at Guantanamo Bay. However, Bradbury’s opinion held that none of his extreme “interrogation techniques” qualified as cruel and inhumane. Thus, Bradbury’s own beliefs nullified those of Senator McCain and the Detainee Treatment Act. Furthermore, in Bradbury’s 2007 memo, he stated that when the CIA briefed “the full memberships of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and Senator McCain… none of the Members expressed the view that the CIA detention and interrogation program should be stopped, or that the techniques at issue were inappropriate.” However, Senator McCain and at least four other Senators objected to the torture program both publicly and privately. [“The Dark Side” by Jane Mayer; Bradbury Memo 7/20/2007]
Bradbury has previously been blocked from Senate confirmable positions. Back in 2008, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) used procedural maneuvers to prevent his nomination to a senior Justice Department position precisely because of his role in Bush’s torture program. Bradbury’s actions in the early years of the Bush administration were so abhorrent that Harry Reid offered the president an alternative; Reid offered to confirm 84 pending nominees if the administration withdrew Bradbury’s nomination. Sen.Chuck Schumer said back then: “The president is drawing a line in sand over unworthy nominees when there are so many worthy problems out there.” As was the case in 2008, there are many problems facing Americans today. We should not waste time considering a nominee who believes in illegal torture and clearly is out of touch with the American people and the values we all share. Going forward, the President should nominate someone who stands up for Americans and the values of fairness, justice, and respect. [Politico 02/6/2008]

June 27, 2017