(Re-published from The Hill | July 12, 2017) [On July 12, 2017] Washington’s attention turns to the confirmation hearing of Christopher Wray, nominated by President Trump as FBI Director following the firing of James Comey in that position.
In the inevitable focus on the Russia investigation and Comey firing fallout, Senate Judiciary Committee members would be remiss not to use the opportunity to probe the issue of Wray’s previous role as Assistant Attorney General in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department. What are his past and current views on the use of torture in interrogations?
In the years following 9/11, our government unleashed a program of illegal torture and rendition of suspected enemies.
Recent efforts to bury the most comprehensive account to date of the U.S. torture program, coupled with Administration appointments of those who played a key role in it, raise sharp concerns about human rights, government transparency and accountability.
Wray served in a Justice Department which sought to justify the use of torture by since-repudiated legal gymnastics. Glimpses from highly redacted government documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU indicate that, at the very least, Wray knew about detainee abuse and was involved in discussions about harsh interrogation techniques.
His stance in those conversations remains a mystery, but members of Congress and the American public have a right to a full picture of what happened. Nothing less will prevent a repeat of these mistakes.
Wray is not an outlier among recent appointees who played a role in this dark chapter of American history.
Steven Bradbury, a key enabler of the torture program, was nominated as General Counsel of the Transportation Department. Bradbury has suffered no consequences for his 2007 memo that helped authorize the since-discredited program.
These two nominations follow the February appointment of Gina Haspel as Deputy Director of the CIA; who, according to multiple reports, personally oversaw the use of torture at a black site in Thailand.
But perhaps the most disturbing recent official effort to sweep our torturous past under the rug is the Administration’s surrender of most copies of the 6,770-page study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation practices to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which produced the report.
This recall was requested by the Chair of that Committee Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The declassified summary of the report contains a damning assessment of the CIA’s tactics as both ineffective and damaging to America’s reputation and influence.
It raises the distinct possibility that some of these actions violated both international and domestic law …
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