"Secret" Justice Dept. Documents Endorse(d) Harsh Interrogation Techniques
Washington officials have revealed to the New York Times that a series of classified, undisclosed documents from the U.S. Justice Department details their "secret" endorsement of severe, torture-laden interrogation techniques used by the CIA. As the Times reports, in early 2005 (shortly after former attorney general Alberto Gonzales assumed his duties), the Justice Department issued a secret legal opinion that was essentially "an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency." This was in stark contrast to the opinion the department issued only a couple months earlier, where they publicly denounced the use of torture as "abhorrent."
However, as officials report, the newly revealed secret opinion "explicit[ly]" authorizes and allows "a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures" to be used in interrogating terror suspects. Then, of course, comes the kicker. From The Times:
Later that year, as Congress moved toward outlawing “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, the Justice Department issued another secret opinion, one most lawmakers did not know existed, current and former officials said. The Justice Department document declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard.
Although the Supreme Court has repeatedly attempted to impose limits on interrogation tactics, and the Bush administration has reportedly renounced their most extreme techniques, the disturbing fact remains that this 2005 secret opinion is actually still in effect, and reaffirmed by several subsequent, recent legal memorandums.
The Times staff interviewed about 24 current and former counterterrorism officials over three months as they gathered more information about this secret authorization; the article also provides a good history of the U.S.'s legal struggle over interrogation techniques and revelations of torture since the Bush administration started detaining suspects post-September 11th. With this latest eruption of secret documents, there is now a renewed debate in Congress, as they demand that the documents be disclosed.
UPDATE: President Bush's response to the chaos erupting in Congress (from the Times): "Bush Defends Interrogations, Saying Methods Aren't Torture."