"Everything changed after 9/11" became, in 2001, the slogan that justified new approaches to national security, including curtailment of civil liberties. Nearly three years later, we learn that even the use of torture was being justified when it came to terror suspects. The Bush administration's Justice Department turned the Constitution on its head by telling the White House in an August 2002 memo -- written nearly a year after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- not only that torture "may be justified" but that laws against torture "may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations" in the U.S. war on terror.
Those are the words of out-of-control government servants willing to discard the most fundamental values of this nation. But the declaration became the basis for a secret draft report in March 2003 by Pentagon lawyers to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. That report said the president's "inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign" meant prohibitions on torture did not apply.
It is not known if the language of the draft survived in a final report, and Pentagon officials said the document had no effect on revised interrogation procedures for Guantanamo Bay inmates issued in April 2003. But the memo's willingness to discard international and domestic laws adds strength to questions about the interrogations of prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq and the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A 2001 memo from Rumsfeld's office, for instance, said intelligence officers should "take the gloves off" when interrogating the so-called American Talib, John Walker Lindh.