Today the Senate confirmed three top Justice Department attorneys after a lengthy delay. James Cole, who has been opposed by Republicans because he supported using civilian courts to try suspected terrorists, was confirmed 55-42 to be Deputy Attorney General. Cole was nominated on May 24, 2010, and was successfully filibustered by Republicans in May of this year. Virginia Seitz was confirmed on a voice vote to head the Office of Legal Counsel (“OLC”), and she is the first Senate-confirmed OLC head since 2004. Finally, Lisa Monaco was confirmed on a voice vote to lead the National Security Division.
Seitz’s nomination is notable because the OLC is known as the "constitutional conscience" of an administration, offering authoritative opinions on complex and important legal matters about which agencies within the executive branch might disagree, and exercising judgment independent of the political will of the president. However, during the Bush Administration between 2002 and 2007, OLC lawyers such as Jon Yoo and Jay Bybee authorized every interrogation practice proposed by the CIA, even those that many legal experts agree violate our federal laws prohibiting torture and conspiracy to commit torture and war crimes; our constitutional ban on cruel and inhuman treatment; and the Geneva Conventions' absolute prohibition of torture.
For more information on the OLC and issues related to torture, please visit AFJ’s Accountability for Torture webpage.