Veterans arrested at Senate confirmation hearing of “Torture Memo” author Steven Bradbury

Code Pink photo

from Code Pink

At the Senate confirmation hearing for Steven Bradbury as general counsel for the Commerce, Science and Transportation Department on June 28, members of Veterans for Peace and CODEPINK protested Bradbury for his authorship of the “Torture Memos” under the Bush administration. Three members of Veterans for Peace were arrested for speaking out at the hearing: Tarak Kauff, Ken Ashe and Ellen Barfield.

All three veterans, in response to why they protested today, affirmed that Bradbury should not hold any kind of position in the United States’ government and called on the senators to oppose his nomination.  

“Anybody whose moral compass is so broken that they would condone torture doesn’t deserve a position in the US government,” stated Ken Ashe as he was handcuffed by Capitol Police. 

“I disrupted the hearing for a man, Steven Bradbury,  who should be on trial for war crimes,” said Tarak Kauff as he was pulled out of the hearing by police. “He sanctioned, condoned, and confirmed torture practices that were used by the Bush administration, practices that disgraced our country.”

“I am a veteran. I am deeply concerned about our soldiers, who are at risk for torture if our nation tortures,” said Ellen Barfield. 

From 2005-2009, Bradbury was acting head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel under George Bush. During this time he authored the “torture memos” that contradict domestic and international law regarding the treatment of prisoners. In 2008, Bradbury was blocked from holding Senate-confirmable positions due to his role in Bush’s torture program. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) used procedural maneuvers to prevent Bradbury’s nomination to a senior Justice Department position. With President Trump, he has resurfaced in vying for a key government position.

Human Rights First, along with 14 other human rights groups, have also called on senators to oppose the nomination. 

For footage and photos from the hearing, please follow these links:

For more information, contact Medea Benjamin at

Transcript of Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s remarks at this morning’s Senate confirmation hearing for Steven Bradbury, who authored three torture memos in 2005

Duckworth: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Bradbury, I want to discuss your experience at the Department of Justice during the Bush administration and why your authorship of the torture memos, not only sunk your nomination to be Assistant Attorney General during the prior decade, but made you so unacceptable that the then-Majority Leader offered to confirm 84 stalled Bush administration nominees, 84, in exchange for the withdrawal of just one nominee – you. That is quite the ransom you commanded from your work with the torture memos, that you could actually get 84 people nominated, just to have your one nomination withdrawn. I think it’s clear what the Senators objected to then, also remains the reason I am strongly opposed to your nomination now – your role in crafting the torture memos. You’re an architect of the legal justification for detainee abuse in the form of waterboarding and other forms of torture. In my opinion, that alone should disqualify you for future government service. And while you’re nominated to serve at DOT and not at Justice, your willingness to aid and abet torture, demonstrates a failure of moral and professional character that makes you dangerous regardless of which agency you serve in. If confirmed, it’s your sworn duty and obligation to serve the interests of the American public by providing honest and objective legal analysis to the department and the administration. We would rely on your counsel to make sure that DOT employees do not subvert the law, the intent of Congress, or the United States Constitution. And unfortunately, as someone who defended the Constitution of the United States for 23 years in uniform, I have no confidence that you are capable of carrying out that critical role. In fact, based on your work on the torture memos, we know that you are more than willing to use tortured legal maneuvers very much to get around the laws and the Constitution of the United States. The public should be alarmed by your history of demonstrating complete deference to a President’s policy goals and the likelihood of continuing this in the Trump Administration. Mr. Bradbury, let me just make it clear what you justified. In one of the programs that you justified, detainees were sleep deprived for up to 180 hours, that’s 7.5 days; forced into stress positions; sometimes shackled to the ceiling; subject to rectal hydration and feeding; confined in boxes the size of a small dog crate. CIA personnel conducted mock executions. One man was waterboarded to the point that he became completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth. Another man was frozen to death. Some of these abuses were authorized; others were not. But brutality, once sanctioned, by the likes of you, by the likes of you, is not easily contained. In 2005, the Senate voted 90-9 to enact the Detainee Treatment Act, to prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, after the Supreme Court decided that terrorism detainees in the US custody were protected by the Geneva Conventions, that you found legal loopholes to allow torture to continue. Even the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility criticized you, in particular, for uncritical acceptance of the CIA’s representations about the torture program. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2007, you defended the president’s questionable interpretation of the Hamdan case, where the Supreme Court ruled that President Bush did not have the authority to set up military tribunals at Guantanamo, by famously, and I  quote, your words, “The president is always right.” This rubber stamp mentality is extremely dangerous, especially in the Trump Administration, regardless of where you might serve. Let me be clear, Mr. Bradbury, you didn’t make America any safer, and you certainly didn’t make the men and women who wore the uniform of this great nation any safer – quite the opposite. The actions you helped justify put our troops in harm’s way, put our diplomats deployed overseas in harm’s way, and you compromised our nation’s very values. As a soldier, I was taught the laws of armed conflict – how to handle and treat detainees and prisoners, and the importance of acting in accordance with American values. Your actions at DOJ undermined that education. And let me tell you, until you have sat, bleeding in a helicopter behind enemy lines like I did, hoping and praying there was American who came for you, and not the enemy. What you did put our men and women, who are behind enemy lines right today, in danger. And I don’t care that you say that now you think the laws that were passed in response to your actions are great and that you support them. The fact is, you lack the judgment to stand up and say what is morally right when pressured by the President of the United States. And I’m afraid that you would do it again. Mr. Chairman, I can’t oppose this nomination strongly enough. I yield back.