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Using a Law License to Facilitate Torture Should Result in Disbarment

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My name is Kevin Zeese, I am an attorney licensed to practice law in Washington, DC and before the U.S. Supreme Court.  I serve as the executive director of VotersForPeace.US and on the board of VelvetRevolution.US.  Today, we filed complaints with the District of Columbia Bar and with four other states seeking the disbarment of 12 Bush-Cheney torture lawyers.  These lawyers misused their license to practice law to provide legal cover for the war crime of torture.  This misuse of their license requires the bar association to disbar them or the bar will become complicit in torture.

It is a low threshold for legal ethics: if you use your license to facilitate war crimes you should lose your license.  If the bar associations do not apply ethics standards to disbar torture lawyers what is left of legal ethics?

Complaints have been filed against: John Yoo, Judge Jay Bybee, and Stephen Bradbury who authored the torture memoranda. As well as attorneys who advised, counseled, consulted and supported those memoranda including Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft, Michael Chertoff, Alice Fisher, William Haynes II, Douglas Feith, Michael Mukasey, Timothy Flanigan, and David Addington.  These detailed complaints, with over 500 pages of supporting exhibits, have been filed with the state bars in the District of Columbia, New York, California, Texas and Pennsylvania, and they seek disciplinary action and disbarment. Copies of the complaints and exhibits are available on-line at and  

This cadre of torture lawyers colluded to facilitate the abuse and torture of prisoners (detainee) that included, evidence suggests, deaths at overseas U.S. military facilities.  Human Rights Watch reports 98 deaths of people in custody of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Making torture even worse in this case is that it was used to try and get information to tie Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda – a relationship that did not exist – as well as information about non-existent weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

We have asked the respective state bars to revoke the licenses of these attorneys for moral turpitude. They failed to show "respect for and obedience to the law, and respect for the rights of others," and intentionally or recklessly failed to act competently, all in violation of legal Rules of Professional Conduct. Several attorneys failed to adequately supervise the work of subordinate attorneys and forwarded shoddy legal memoranda regarding the definition of torture to the White House and Department of Defense. These lawyers further acted incompetently by advising superiors to approve interrogation techniques that were in violation of U.S. and international law. They failed to support or uphold the U.S. Constitution, and the laws of the United States, and to maintain the respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers, all in violation state bar rules.

Torture is illegal under United States and international law. It is illegal under the U.S. Constitution, domestic law and international treaties to which the United States is a party. 

This includes:

1. The United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), Articles 1, 2, 3 and 16 (ratified in October 1994). Article 2(2) of the Convention states that:

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"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.                                                

2. The Geneva Conventions, Article 3, (ratified in August 1955). Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006), held that the Geneva Conventions are applicable to accused members of al-Qaeda. Thus, due process protections apply to all detainees in U.S. custody, including those in military prisons.

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

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

Torture is a clearly defined term under international and U.S. law.   The Convention Against Torture defines torture as any act by which: "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental; is intentionally inflicted on a person . . ."

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The torture memoranda did not provide objective legal advice to government decision-makers, but instead twisted the state of the law so that it was unrecognizable.  They were so inaccurate that these memoranda are more justifications about what the authors and the intended recipients wanted the law to be, rather than assessments of what the law actually is.

These laws provide no exception for torture under any circumstances. Moreover, the United States Criminal Code prohibits both torture and war crimes, the latter which includes torture. The Army Field Manual prohibits the use of degrading treatment of detainees.  The individually tailored complaints allege that the named attorneys violated the rules of professional responsibility by advocating torture.

We decided to take action today because the federal government seems unable and unwilling to act.  The Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility has taken nearly five years to complete its report, as some of the memoranda at issue became public in June 2004.  Further, this OPR investigation is focused only on two lawyers, John Yoo and Jay Bybee rather than all those involved.  This inexcusable delay is unfair to the public because the consequences of any wrongdoing are diminished. The delay has already benefited the two men under investigation, John Yoo now has tenure at Berkeley law school and Jay Bybee now has a lifetime appointment as a federal court of appeals judge.  If OPR had completed its duties in a timely manner it is unlikely that either appointment would have been made.

Next Page  1  |  2 and http://www.ComeHomeAmerica.U

Kevin Zeese is co-chair of Come Home America, www.ComeHomeAmerica.US which seeks to end U.S. militarism and empire. He is also co-director of Its Our Economy, www.ItsOurEconomy.US which seeks to democratize the economy and give people greater (more...)

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Anyone who wants them to be disbarred, but is not ... by Bob Frapples on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 12:04:57 PM
Two pages of Zeese drivel to play gotcha politics,... by pete collins on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 12:12:42 PM
You're right Eric Holder also has a conflict on to... by Kevin Zeese on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 12:22:42 PM
I am troubled by the extreme partisanship and lies... by John Toradze on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 1:00:05 PM
Several things you say here are "concerning&q... by Paula Sayles on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 3:08:11 PM
I believe you are simply pushing the envelope to e... by Archie on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 7:21:41 PM
Most people haven't bothered to read the so-ca... by Mad Jayhawk on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 1:09:33 PM
that the citizenry is so ignorant of the way our l... by Paula Sayles on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 3:24:49 PM
Is there a poll that says all conservatives love t... by Mad Jayhawk on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 11:43:19 AM
This is the job of lawyers some think it is OK to ... by Gallaher on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 1:16:25 PM
just like doctors practice medicine and so on. The... by Paula Sayles on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 3:56:23 PM
Here is the link.....Click Here... by Michael Morris on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 5:26:11 PM
brigades take appropriate action? U.S. Supreme Cou... by Mark Adams on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 5:52:18 PM
I salute the work of your organization.  What... by Nathan Nahm on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 9:40:49 PM
Thanks for the lively discussion. There are a lot... by Kevin Zeese on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 8:28:39 AM
This is only the first part of this campaign. ... by Kevin Zeese on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 8:29:53 AM
Please keep up with your good work. There will be... by Nathan Nahm on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 10:23:52 AM
These lawyers need to disbared and prosecuted. Al... by John H Kennedy on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 11:50:09 AM