In December 2002, Alberto J. Mora, then general counsel of the United States Navy, was alerted by Navy investigators to reports that detainees held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay were being subjected to cruel and unlawful interrogation practices. Mora, whose civilian position accorded him a rank equal to that of a four-star general, soon came to learn that the cruel and abusive practices of United States military interrogators at Guantanamo were the result of significant policy shifts at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Over the next three years, Mora waged a campaign inside the Bush Administration to prevent military and civilian leaders from codifying any policy that might implicitly or explicitly sanction the mistreatment of Guantanamo detainees as part of the war on terror.
Mora, a Republican who had led a distinguished career in public service and international law prior to his appointment to the Navy, argued that a policy allowing cruelty toward prisoners at Guantanamo left the door open for American military personnel to engage in torture of the kind that was later exposed at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq. Mora did not know of the abuse at Abu Ghraib when he warned Pentagon and other administration officials that the mistreatment of terror suspects and other prisoners would carry grave political consequences for the United States, and would expose U.S. interrogators and policy makers to criminal prosecution. In a 2004 internal memo to the Navy inspector general, Mora outlined his efforts to prevent the Administration from grounding policy in what he believed were flawed legal arguments that would permit the mistreatment of detainees and set off politically and morally disastrous chain reactions. The memo was made public in February 2006. Accounts of widespread prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo have continued to escalate. Earlier this year, Alberto Mora retired from his service to the U.S.government and returned to the private sector.
For his moral courage and his commitment to upholding American values, Alberto Mora was honored with the 2006 Profile in Courage Award.