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Americas

White House releases Bush-era 'torture memos'

Latest update : 2009-04-17

President Barack Obama's administration released four Bush-era interrogation memos, which critics suspect contain legal justification for torturing terror suspects. Obama has assured interrogators they will not be subject to prosecution.

AFP - President Barack Obama's administration Thursday released four memos, with sections blacked out, which were written by Bush administration's officials to justify harsh CIA interrogations of terror suspects.
   
In a statement, Obama said the tactics adopted by the administration of his predecessor George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks in 2001 "undermine our moral authority and do not make us safer."
   
He said he was releasing the documents to avoid "an inaccurate accounting of the past" which would "fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States."
   
Obama stressed that the interrogators would not be prosecuted for their work.
   
"In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution," he said in a statement.
   
"The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world," he said. "We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs."
   
Attorney General Eric Holder meanwhile said that the government would provide legal representation to any CIA employee involved in the interrogations in any state or federal court case brought against them.
   
"It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for condunct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department," Holder said.
   
A federal court had given the government until Thursday to either turn over the memos in response to a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, or explain whey they cannot be released.
   
The memos were authored by Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury, who at the time were lawyers for the then-president George W. Bush's Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel.
   
The memos provided the legal framework for a program of interrogations of "war on terror" detainees that included techniques widely regarded as torture such as waterboarding, in which a detainee is made to feel like he is drowning.
   
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that intense debate was underway within the new administration over whether to release the memos.
   
The report said Attorney General Eric Holder and others in the Justice Department had argued aggressively in favor of release, but the CIA has countered that disclosure of such secrets would undermine its credibility and effectiveness.
   
The day after taking office, Obama ordered the closing of the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba within a year and the immediate cessation of the special interrogation regime used by the CIA.

Date created : 2009-04-16

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