The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the Justice Department to investigate whether President George W. Bush violated anti-torture laws by authorizing the use of waterboarding against detainees in the war on terror -- an admission Mr. Bush makes in his new memoir "Decision Points."
In "Decision Points," Mr. Bush writes that he "approved the use of the [enhanced] interrogation techniques," including waterboarding, on detainee Abu Zubaydah. Additionally, he writes that when the CIA asked whether it could use waterboarding on detainee Khalid Sheik Mohammed, he replied: "Damn right."
"The former President's acknowledgement that he authorized torture is absolutely without parallel in American history," ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero wrote in a letter today to Attorney General Eric Holder.
Romero urges Holder to ask Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham to open his current investigation into detainee interrogations to include Mr. Bush.
Both President Obama and Holder have said waterboarding is an act of torture under international law, and some Republican lawmakers agree. On top of that, Romero pointed out that the United States has historically prosecuted waterboarding as a crime. Romero wrote that Mr. Bush's conduct cannot be ignored.
"In our system, no one is above the law or beyond its reach, not even a former president," he wrote. "That founding principle of our democracy would mean little if it were ignored with respect to those in whom the public most invests its trust."
He added that it would be unfair for Durham's investigation to focus only on low-level officials who carried out acts approved by the president. Furthermore, he said ignoring Mr. Bush's conduct would make it harder for the United States to advocate for human rights in other countries.
Mr. Bush previously acknowledged approving "enhanced" interrogation techniques, but he told an interviewer at the end of his presidency, "I firmly reject the word 'torture,' " the Washington Post reports. He repeats that point in his new book.More on President Bush's new memoir:
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.