Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Pentagon releases memo on harsh tactics

By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press WriterWed Apr 2, 6:38 AM ET

The Pentagon made public a now-defunct legal memo that approved the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terror suspects, saying that President Bush's wartime authority trumps any international ban on torture.

The Justice Department memo, dated March 14, 2003, outlines legal justification for military interrogators to use harsh tactics against al-Qaida and Taliban detainees overseas — so long as they did not specifically intend to torture their captives.

Even so, the memo noted, the president's wartime power as commander in chief would not be limited by the U.N. treaties against torture.

"Our previous opinions make clear that customary international law is not federal law and that the president is free to override it at his discretion," said the memo written by John Yoo, who was then deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.

The memo also offered a defense in case any interrogator was charged with violating U.S. or international laws.

"Finally, even if the criminal prohibitions outlined above applied, and an interrogation method might violate those prohibitions, necessity or self-defense could provide justifications for any criminal liability," the memo concluded...[Open in new window]


From the Chicago Tribune:

The Justice Department late Tuesday released a declassified 2003 memorandum long sought by congressional Democrats and other administration critics that outlines the government's legal justification for harsh interrogation techniques used by the military against captured enemy combatants outside the United States.

(Here are part one and part two of the memo.)

The memo, written by John Yoo, then a key architect of legal policy in the wake of 9/11, dismisses several legal impediments to the use of extreme techniques.

Yoo was long a proponent of an aggressive approach in the war against terrorism and a believer in executive branch authority. But the memo was withdrawn as formal government policy less than a year after it was written.

In the March 14, 2003 memo, Yoo says the Constitution was not in play with regard to the interrogations because the Fifth Amendment (which provides for due process of law) and the Eighth Amendment (which prevents the government from employing cruel and usual punishment) does "not extend to alien enemy combatants held abroad."...[Open in new window]


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