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ACLU head Anthony Romero urges Obama to pardon Bush, CIA torture authorizers

On Tuesday, the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee are expected to publicly release a 500-page version of the committee's 6,000-page investigation into harsh CIA interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration in 2002, and some instances where interrogators reportedly overstepped even those loosened standards. Republican committee members and the CIA will publish critiques of the long-awaited document.

The report's imminent release has Washington more sharply divided than usual, with Obama supporting the airing of America's dirty laundry, Republicans decrying it, and the military and intelligence community preparing for a possibly violent backlash overseas at the recounting of torture-like techniques. The American Civil Liberties Union supports releasing the report, for obvious reasons, but its executive director, Anthony Romero, also argues for pardoning George W. Bush and the other government officials with a hand in the program.

"That officials at the highest levels of government authorized and ordered torture is not in dispute," Romero writes in a New York Times op-ed. And when conservatives first pushed the idea of pardons for the torture enablers, the ACLU and other human rights groups "found the proposal repugnant," he adds.

But with the impending release of the report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have come to think that President Obama should issue pardons, after all — because it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal.....

Obama is not inclined to pursue prosecutions — no matter how great the outrage, at home or abroad, over the disclosures — because of the political fallout. He should therefore take ownership of this decision. He should acknowledge that the country's most senior officials authorized conduct that violated fundamental laws, and compromised our standing in the world as well as our security. If the choice is between a tacit pardon and a formal one, a formal one is better. An explicit pardon would lay down a marker, signaling to those considering torture in the future that they could be prosecuted. [New York Times]

Read the rest of Romero's argument, and his suggested pardon candidates, at The New York Times.