April 22, 2009
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
I am writing to convey my views on legal matters related to the CIA detention and interrogation program. As you have stated so clearly, the program violated our national values and undermined our national security, and I strongly support your decision to end it. I am also convinced that the program was illegal, as designed and as implemented. I thus welcomed the recent declassification and release of the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memoranda, which demonstrated to the public the clear absence of any reasonable legal justifications for the authorized interrogation techniques -- techniques which are, in fact, torture.
In recent days, you and members of your administration have made comments related to possible prosecutions of those responsible for designing and implementing the program. These comments have prompted much debate in the media and among elected officials, including me. Out of respect for the serious approach you have taken to addressing these difficult questions, I would like to offer my views to you directly.
First, I welcomed your statement on Tuesday indicating that you had not ruled out prosecutions of those who authorized or provided legal justifications for the interrogations. As the OLC documents make clear, the details of this program were authorized at the highest levels, which is where the need for accountability is most acute. I hope that the Department of Justice will fully investigate this matter and determine whether such prosecutions are appropriate. Second, I urge you not to rule out prosecutions of those who implemented the program. While I understand your motivation to protect those who may have relied in good faith on OLC guidance, I believe that blanket assurances are premature. I urge your administration to wait to consider the findings of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's review of the program, and the Department of Justice's investigation, before making any decisions related to prosecutions of any persons involved in these interrogations.
Finally, in March, I expressed my support for the independent commission of inquiry proposed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy. If we are to ensure that this dark chapter in our history is never repeated, it is critical that the facts are provided to the public, a process you have begun with the declassification of the OLC memos. I continue to support the establishment of a commission, although I believe such an effort must not impede or delay the review of the Senate Intelligence Committee or any investigation by the Department of Justice, and that extreme caution be exercised in considering any grants of immunity.
I appreciate this opportunity to convey my views and look forward to working with you and your administration on this critically important matter. Your commitment to the rule of law is not only welcome, it is crucial to the future of our democracy.
Russell D. Feingold
United States Senator
CC: The Honorable Eric Holder
Attorney General of the United States