Wednesday, May 6, 2009

ACLU Chief: Put Bush and Cheney on Trial

In an April 30th talk at The Commonwealth Club, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero called for the prosecution of any and all U.S. officials, including former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who may have knowingly authorized or engaged in important crimes.

“Should the line be drawn around the president? No … We’ve impeached one president who broke the law knowingly and intelligently broke the law. If an investigation shows that our former President Bush broke the law, then he too must be held for account. His election as president did not make him immune to prosecutions of crimes.”

Speaking candidly as the inaugural speaker of The Commonwealth Club's series on The U.S. Constitution in the 21st Century (underwritten by the Charles Geschke Family), Romero described as illegal the acts of torture authorized by high-ranking government officials, putting it in Orwellian terms by saying the victims were intentionally exposed to whatever irrational fear haunted them the most.

“What was a work of fiction [George Orwell’s 1984], for the Bush administration, became the reality," Romero added. "Bush lawyers allowed life to imitate fiction.” For these crimes, Romero and his teams of lawyers at the ACLU will continue their six-year investigation and what they hope will be prosecutions of some of the highest ranking government officials.

Romero also explained why current economic crises and international pressures may force the Obama Administration to push aside divisive issues such as gay rights and the war on terror. Romero asserted that, though the first months of Obama’s presidency have been marked by considerable change, if the threats to civil liberties are not addressed, the future of America may be in more peril than originally believed.

With Romero at the helm, the ACLU has won court victories on the Patriot Act and filed landmark litigation on the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody. Most recently, the ACLU successfully challenged the Bush administration’s illegal spying program. Under Romero, the ACLU has experienced the most successful membership growth in its history and doubled the budget and national staff of the organization.

An attorney with a history of public-interest activism, Romero is the first openly gay man and the first Hispanic to serve as director of the ACLU. In 2005 Time Magazine named him one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics and “The Champion of Civil Rights.” Born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, Romero was the first member of his family to graduate high school. He went on to graduate from the Stanford University Law School and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs.

-- By The Commonwealth Club Media Relations Department


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