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Outspoken critic of US detainee policies, former Navy General Counsel, Alberto Mora, to deliver Georgetown’s William V. O’Brien Lecture on International Law and Morality, April 30, 2013

Alberto Mora

Alberto Mora

Former General Counsel at the U.S. Department of the Navy, Alberto J. Mora, will deliver the William V. O’Brien Lecture at Georgetown University on Tuesday, April 30 at 5:00 in McNeir Auditorium. The Lecture is open to the public. To register for the event please go to this link.

Mora served as General Counsel from 2001 to 2007 and was an outspoken critic of America policies regarding the treatment of detainees. In 2006, he was given the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. The announcement for the Award reads:

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 might 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 is honored with the 2006 Profile in Courage Award.

Mora is currently Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel of Mars, Inc. He previously served as Vice President and General Counsel, International, for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. He serves on the Boards of Directors Human Rights First and Freedom House and is a member of the Board of Advisors of the MSFS Program at Georgetown University.


The William V. O’Brien Lecture in International Law and Morality was established by the School of Foreign Service and the Department of Government to honor Dr. O’Brien for his many years of distinguished service to Georgetown University on the occasion of his retirement in 1993.

Born and raised in the Washington area, Dr. O’Brien was associated with Georgetown University for over half a century.  He received his B.S.F.S., M.S.F.S., and Ph.D. from Georgetown.  Dr. O’Brien joined the faculty of the Department of Government in 1953, became a full professor of Government in 1966, and twice served as chairman of the Government Department (1974-77) and (1983-84).  He became Professor Emeritus upon his retirement.  Dr. O’Brien passed away in 2003.

Dr. O’Brien’s scholarship on war, morality and the legal dimensions of international affairs has gained him international recognition.  Among his many published works are The Conduct of Just and Limited War, Law and Morality in Israel’s War with the PLO, and The Nuclear Dilemma and the Just War Tradition.  Dr. O’Brien was also an important figure in contemporary policy debates, and was active as an advisor to the American Catholic Bishops on morality and strategic nuclear deterrence.

The O’Brien Lecture brings a distinguished scholar or practitioner to Georgetown to speak on an aspect of international law and morality.  Dr. O’Brien gave the inaugural lecture on April 16, 1993.  Previous lecturers have included Thomas M. Franck, Father J. Bryan Hehir, Louis J. Freeh, Abiodun Williams, Mark P. Lagon, and Paul D. Clement.

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Welcome! Who am I?

Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.