The Justice Department withheld few details in the four Bush-era memos released today that outline and authorize harsh interrogation methods used against terrorism suspects.
Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury of the Office of Legal Counsel advised the Central Intelligence Agency in a series of memos written in 2002 and 2005 that interrogation methods including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, slapping, box confinement with bugs and pushing detainees into a wall were acceptable under international law.
The New York Times reported:
Together, the four memos give an extraordinarily detailed account of the C.I.A.’s methods and the Justice Department’s long struggle, in the face of graphic descriptions of brutal tactics, to square them with international and domestic law. Passages describing forced nudity, the slamming of detainees into walls, prolonged sleep deprivation and the dousing of detainees with water as cold as 41 degrees alternate with elaborate legal arguments concerning the international Convention Against Torture.
The Justice Department previously released nine other Bush-era memos that were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union. The CIA and the DOJ fought bitterly over how much information to make public from the memos released today.
President Obama said there were “exceptional circumstances” surrounding these memos.
“Withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that have been in the public domain for some time,” he said in a statement. “This could contribute to an inaccurate accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States.”
The president reaffirmed that his administration does not support the interrogation methods outlined in the memos. Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder pledged, however, that they would support CIA officials in U.S. and international investigations, despite the CIA’s involvement in harsh interrogation methods during the Bush administration.
“It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department,” Holder said in a statement.
The memos are here:
Memo 1 – “Interrogation of al Qaeda Operative” from Jay Bybee on Aug. 1, 2002
Memo 2 – “Re: Application of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340-2340A to Certain Techniques That May Be Used in the Interrogation of a High Value al Qaeda Detainee” from Steven Brabdury on May 10, 2005
Memo 3 – “Re: Application of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340-2340A to the Combined Use of Certain Techniques in the Interrogation of High Value al Qaeda Detainees” from Steven Bradbury on May 10, 2005
Memo 4 – “Re: Application of United States Obligations Under Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture of Certaian Techniques that May Be Used in the Interrogation of High Value al Qaeda Detainees” from Steven Bradbury on May 30, 2005