Executive Branch

Congress Probes Latest Torture Concerns

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Congressional committees are launching investigations, after a New York Times article today revealed that two secret Department of Justice opinions in 2005 endorsed prisoner interrogation techniques some consider tantamount to torture. However, the White House has reiterated prior assertions that the U.S. doesn’t torture prisoners.

The Democratic chairs of both the Senate and House judiciary committees asked the DOJ to turn over the two secret memos, the Times reports in a follow-up article today. Hearings are expected soon, according to an item posted by CBS News.

Meanwhile, an unnamed government official confirmed a Times report today that the Central Intelligence Agency continues to hold prisoners in secret overseas detention centers, says Reuters. The secret detention program was detailed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post discussing a New Yorker magazine article on the “black sites.”

As discussed in an ABAJournal.com post earlier today, the Times article reports that two secret memos signed in 2005 by Steven Bradbury, head of the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel, approved controversial interrogation techniques at much the same time that a public 2004 opinion appeared to condemn such tactics.

“White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the legal opinion on interrogation techniques did not conflict with administration promises not to torture suspects,” reports the Washington Post, referring to one of these DOJ documents. Said Perino: “It is a policy of the United States that we do not torture, and we do not.”

The Times story was clearly the legal topic of the day, as Post White House columnist Dan Froomkin discusses. Among other comments he collects from legal bloggers, one by Georgetown University law professor Marty Lederman on Balkinization reflects concerns expressed by many:

“I am increasingly confident that when the history of the Bush Administration is written, this systematic violation of statutory and treaty-based law concerning fundamental war crimes and other horrific offenses will be seen as the blackest mark in our nation’s recent history—not only because of what was done, but because the programs were routinely sanctioned, on an ongoing basis, by numerous esteemed professionals—lawyers, doctors, psychologists and government officers—without whose approval such a systematized torture regime could not be sustained.”

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