Mary Walker

Torture Connection: 
Sidelined Detainee Rights Working Group

  • Graduated from University of California at Berkeley and Boston University School of Law.
  • Partner at Brobeck, Phleger and Harrison, 1995-2001.
  • Partner at Luce, Forward, Hamilton and Scripps, 1991-1995.
  • Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health at U.S. Department of Energy in the Reagan administration, 1985-1988.
  • Deputy Solicitor at the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Reagan administration, 1984-1985.
  • Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the U.S. Department of Justice during the Regan administration, 1982-1984.

Mary Walker led the Working Group that could have stopped the torture program

At the insistence of senior civilian attorneys working in the Department of Defense, most notably the General Counsel of the U.S. Navy, Alberto Mora, a working group was established to create clear legal guidance for prisoner treatment and interrogations. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed Mary Walker, the General Counsel of the U.S. Air Force, to chair the detainee rights working group.

Walker sidelined the Working Group

As most of the working group was involved in what its members believed was a serious effort to sort out the complex legal issues involved in taking and interrogating prisoners in a different type of war, Mary Walker held a secret legal memo which rendered the working group irrelevant, unless the goal was to keep Mora occupied instead of speaking out.

Mary Walker guarded and defended a torture memo

The secret legal opinion was written by John Yoo, dated March 14th, 2003, and later became known as one of the infamous "torture memos." The memo, argued that gouging a prisoner's eye out, dousing the prisoner with acid, or even "disabling a tongue or limb," were arguably legal interrogation techniques as long as sadism and malice can not be proven. Mary Walker hid the torture memo and, when it was finally reviewed by Mora, justified the tortured logic.

Mary Walker did not write the torture memo (it was authored by Yoo and approved by Chertoff), may not have requested the memo (it was written to William Haynes, Walker's superior), but when she defended the logic of the memo it became her own and she became an accomplice to their crimes against humanity.

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