117048243_7cc6bb0b87The Obama administration today released previously undisclosed memos regarding the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency, but has decided not to go forward with the prosecution of CIA interrogators who performed the acts described in the documents.

Attorney General Eric Holder, in a press release from the Department of Justice, stated that President Obama has stopped the use of the interrogation techniques described in the opinions. “We are disclosing these memos consistent with our commitment to the rule of law,” he stated.

From the press release:

“Holder also stressed that intelligence community officials who acted reasonably and relied in good faith on authoritative legal advice from the Justice Department that their conduct was lawful, and conformed their conduct to that advice, would not face federal prosecutions for that conduct.”

Holder further states that the government would provide no-cost legal representation to any employee in any state or federal judicial or administrative proceeding brought against the employee based on such conduct, and would also indemnify any employee for any monetary judgment or penalty ultimately imposed against him for such conduct and will provide representation in congressional investigations.

You can download the memos at the New York Times Web site. If you don’t want to download them on your own, you can read them at The Huffington Post, which is seemingly outsourcing the digging through them to its readership. And here’s a link to President Obama’s statement regarding the release of the memos.

Included in the documents is a memo published by the Office of Legal Counsel August 1, 2002 (under Jay Bybee and Chapman Law visiting professor John Yoo) which the New York Times had previously reported as “a legal authorization for a laundry list of proposed C.I.A. interrogation techniques.”

The memo discusses the case of Abu Zubaydah, described as one of the highest-ranking members of Al Qaeda and one of the planners of the Sept. 11 attacks.

According to the memo, Zubaydah is thought to be witholding vital information from interrogators, and because of the amount of “chatter” that was equivalent to that which preceded the Sept. 11 attacks, it was permissible to up the ante so to speak: to go from regular interrogation methods into the “increased pressure phase”.

And what does the increased pressure phase entail?

Ten techniques: the attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap (insult slap), cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation, insects placed in a confinement box, and the waterboard.

Page two of the documents gives a rundown of what each technique involves. Ultimately, the memo writers conclude that none of the techniques used on Zubaydah would qualify as “torture”.

According to the Associated Press, former CIA Director Michael Hayden stated that the Obama administration is endangering the country by releasing the memos.

The release of the memos today should make Saturday’s scheduled National Lawyers Guild Teach-In On Torture at Chapman Law’s Kennedy Hall and next week’s debate regarding Presidential Power and Success in Time of Crisiswith Mr. Yoo, Dean John Eastman, Professor Katherine Darmer, and Professor Larry Rosenthal – all the more timely.

Photo: Joe Gratz / Flickr

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