It is not clear who wrote the memo or what effect it had. This week, administration officials, including Atty. Gen John Ashcroft, insisted that U.S. officials did not condone or authorize the use of torture. They characterized the memo as a view presented by lawyers in the administration that was not put into practice.
In 2002, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel took the lead in arguing for a broad view of presidential authority in the war on terrorism. The same office contributed to the Pentagon's "working group" memo.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday June 11, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 60 words Type of Material: Correction
Memo about torture -- A headline on a news analysis in Thursday's Section A about a legal memo written for the Defense Department on President Bush's powers regarding the use of torture in war said the memo was dated weeks after the invasion of Iraq. The memo was dated March 6, 2003, two weeks before the start of the war.
The office was led by two conservative law professors, Jay S. Bybee and John C. Yoo. They wrote the key memos declaring the Geneva Convention did not apply to accused terrorists, the Taliban or other detainees who were held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
They also said the president had the power to arrest and hold in military custody American citizens who were deemed to be "enemy combatants." The administration cited this authority as the basis for holding Jose Padilla, an accused terrorist who was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.
The Supreme Court is considering Padilla's case and is expected to rule on it before the end of June.
Bybee and Yoo have left the government. Bush nominated Bybee as a judge on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and March 14, 2003, he won confirmation by the Senate. Yoo, a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has returned to his position as a law professor at UC Berkeley.
The Pentagon's legal working group was chaired by the Defense Department's general counsel, William J. Haynes II. He too has been nominated to be an appellate judge, in the U.S. 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va.
In March, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee narrowly approved his nomination, but he has not been brought up for a final vote in the Senate.
A year ago, Haynes told Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) that he and the Pentagon opposed any use of torture.
"We can assure you that it is the policy of the United States to comply with all of its legal obligation in its treatment of detainees," he said in a letter citing the Geneva Convention and the anti-torture law. "The United States does not permit, tolerate or condone any such torture by its employees under any circumstances."
The letter, dated June 25, 2003, came three months after the secret memo argued that the president could employ the use of torture if he chose to do so.