News Release

Will Obama Uphold his Oath?


Author of the book Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy, Fein was a Justice Department attorney in the Nixon administration. Today he and Ralph Nader sent a letter to Barack Obama: “The United States ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 1994. Article 12 of the CAT provides: ‘Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.’

“Former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Richard Cheney have both openly conceded that they authorized waterboarding on at least three Al Qaeda detainees. Among others, Attorney General-designate Eric Holder has characterized waterboarding as torture. …

“The federal criminal code punishes torture in accord with the CAT. See 18 U.S. C. 2340A. The United States recently prosecuted and punished the son of Liberia’s Charles Taylor for torture perpetrated in Liberia.

“The public record clearly gives reasonable ground to believe Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their subordinates are implicated in torture. Article 12 of the CAT thus requires that your administration conduct a ‘prompt and impartial investigation’ of the individuals and their superiors involved in waterboarding the Al Qaeda detainees and in interrogating Mohammed al-Qahtani. We urge that the investigation be conducted by a special prosecutor with a Republican Party affiliation appointed by the Attorney General to forestall charges of partisanship. If no investigation is forthcoming, you will have violated Article 12.

“During your presidential campaign, you assailed the unilateralism of your predecessor which flouted international obligations or responsibilities. You promised change. You should not ape former President Bush by defying Article 12 of the CAT.”

President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Ratner said today: The Bush years have “been a nightmare especially for those feeling the brunt of the administration’s militaristic, inhuman, and illegal outrages. Law, legality and separation of powers were of no account. For eight years now we have all suffered Bush’s law: his actions were the law. (It has echoes of the Fuehrer’s law of Nazi Germany.) The wars and killings in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza; the torture and detentions of thousands held at prisons in Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and secret sites; the implementation of a surveillance and spy state here at home with arrests on trumped-up terrorism charges; and the suppression of speech characterizing a terrible moment in all our lives.

“The country under Bush has moved well along on the road to a police state. … The excitement of Obama’s election can only take us so far. Bush’s unconstitutional practices must be reversed. Constitutional rule must be reestablished. This means an end to:

1. Perpetual detention without trial
2. Torture and inhumane treatment of detainees
3. Trials in kangaroo courts such as the military commissions
4. Off-shore penal colonies and secret prisons
5. The rendition of people to other countries for torture
6. The surveillance state with its warrantless wiretapping, spying and suppression of speech
7. Rule by presidential fiat

“Constitutional rule means that those who grossly violated fundamental rights be prosecuted; that the torture team be brought to justice.”
More Information

Swanson is in D.C. and was at the “Yes We Can Arrest Bush” rally, which is continuing this afternoon along the route of the inaugural parade at the FBI building on Pennsylvania Avenue, between 9th and 10th Streets; see

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167