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Memo Gave Bush Leeway on Torture

June 08, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A group of lawyers in the Bush administration argued in a paper last year that the president had supreme authority over the questioning of terrorist suspects and could legally order interrogators to torture or commit other crimes against them.

The lawyers, not identified by name, were part of a working group writing a policy governing interrogation techniques to be used at the prison for terrorist suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The arguments are one group's reflections on interrogation law, Pentagon spokesmen said, and the legal latitude they describe is wider than the military gives itself.

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said Monday that the final set of interrogation methods adopted for use at Guantanamo in April 2003 were humane, legal and useful. It is a narrower set of methods than some had proposed.

Di Rita described the paper as a staff legal analysis that was part of an internal Bush administration debate on how to obtain intelligence from Al Qaeda operatives in U.S. custody, within the confines of a standard of humane treatment. The intelligence sought was to prevent terrorist attacks, he said.

The contents of the paper, labeled "draft" and dated March 6, 2003, were first reported in Monday's Wall Street Journal.

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