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DOJ Official Who Signed 2005 Waterboarding Memo Revisits the Issue

Posted Feb 14, 2008 10:35 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Justice Department official who signed two secret legal memos in 2005 authorizing the use of waterboarding now says the department has made no determination that the interrogation method is legal under current law.

Steven Bradbury, acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, makes the statement in prepared testimony to be delivered today to the House Judiciary Constitution subcommittee, the Associated Press reports.

"There has been no determination by the Justice Department that the use of waterboarding, under any circumstances, would be lawful under current law," Bradbury says in the remarks. He also says current authorized interrogation techniques are “narrower than before” and don’t include waterboarding.

The statement is the first time the Justice Department has expressed such an opinion on waterboarding, the AP story says. Attorney General Michael Mukasey was less clear on the issue in a recent letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the New York Times blog The Lede reports. At that time, Mukasey wrote: “There are some circumstances where current law would appear clearly to prohibit the use of waterboarding. Other circumstances would present a far closer question.”

Bradbury came under fire for the 2005 memos, which authorized interrogators to use head slapping, exposure to cold, and waterboarding. Senate Democrats have cited that stand in refusing to confirm him in the job he now holds on an acting basis.

The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which bars cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment for detainees in U.S. custody, was passed after three detainees were subjected to waterboarding.

Yesterday, the Senate weighed in on the issue, passing a bill that would bar waterboarding by restricting the CIA to19 interrogation techniques described in the Army field manual. The House has already passed a similar bill.

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