Torture whistleblowers commended by Common Cause, President Carter and high-ranking military officials

    Media Contact
  • Dale Eisman

Common Cause on Thursday released a commendation letter signed by 15,000 people, including former President Jimmy Carter, former Congressman Bob Barr, former Defense Secretaries William Perry and William Cohen and retired Army Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, to those who resisted and fought against the policies of the last Administration that sanctioned and promoted the torture of foreign detainees. Recipients of the commendation letter include US Air Force Col. Steven Kleinman, Criminal Investigation Task Force Commander Col. Col. Brittain Mallow, Deputy Commander Mark Fallon, former U.S. Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora, Lt. Col. Stuart Couch and former Army Lt. Col. Darrel J. Vandeveld. Profiles of the honorees may be found here.

One of the honorees, Vandeveld, will be given the commendation letter Friday in Washington. He is speaking at a panel co-hosted by Common Cause and the National Press Club entitled: “After Guantanamo: Accountability for torture and moving forward.”

Profiles of the notable signatories of the letter can be found here and include former President Carter, Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, USMC (Ret.), Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, Jr., US Army (Ret.), Brigadier General John H Johns, US Army (Ret.), the Hon. Lee H. Hamilton, Lawrence J. Korb, the Hon. William J. Perry, Paul R. Pillar, Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, US Army (Ret.), and Brigadier General Stephen N. Xenakis MD, US Army (Ret.).

During the last decade, former Vice President Dick Cheney, his counsel David Addington, and a close circle of high level insiders within the previous Administration developed policies and a legal framework to systematically circumvent the requirements of the Geneva Conventions and U.S. law regarding the treatment, interrogation, and trial of detainees. They did this largely in secret and over the objections of many of their colleagues. As a result detainees in U.S. custody were tortured in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and undisclosed “black” sites around the world in violation of U.S. and international law.

A number of military and civilian personnel objected strenuously to these policies and voiced their concerns up the chain of command and ultimately went public. For their objections, some of the honorees faced personal threats and harassment from their peers and superiors. However, ultimately, because of their actions, U.S. policy has been changing and policies condoning torture are no longer sanctioned.

“Common Cause is honoring the military and civilian officials who stood up for the rule of law and worked to stop misguided policies and practices involving torture of detainees,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “We have selected a few individuals for special recognition, but this is by no means an exhaustive list of the many heroes who took steps to put an end to torture. The honorees here represent the many men and women who were deeply troubled by the torture policies and risked their personal safety and their careers to put a stop to them.”

The text of the letter is below. A link to the letter can be found here and a list of the 15,000 signers can be found here.

We the undersigned commend you for your uncommon courage in defending the rule of law and standing up against torture.

We’ve been horrified by photos and torture accounts from Abu-Ghraib, Guantanamo and other prisons. We’ve read about the torture that some Administration and defense officials condoned and ordered carried out. But we’ve also learned that you are among the few brave military and civilian officials who stood up for the rule of law and worked to stop the misguided policies and practices.

We echo the sentiments of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who recently said, “In our current struggle against international terrorism, when others surrendered faithful obedience to the law to the circumstances of the time, it was the brave men and women in the JAG Corps who stood up against the tides, many times risking their careers to do so. We all can learn from their example.”

We are heartened to know that in one of America’s darkest chapters, there were people like you defending the ideals and principles upon which our great nation was built.

We thank you for your integrity and bravery, your convictions and your principles.