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More Torture Memos Released, Along With Announcement That Torturers Won't Be Prosecuted
New memo from Jay Bybee: PDF. This purports to give "legal" permission to engage in various detailed torture techniques against Abu Zubaydah. We know what was done from the ICRC report and other sources, and that it produced nothing of value. We know why the CIA detroyed the 92 tapes. But here is the authorization from the "Justice" department. The man who wrote it is now a federal appeals judge on the 9th circuit. If he is not impeached, Congress will essentially cease to exist as a branch of our government. ASK CONGRESS TO IMPEACH BYBEE.
Early announcement was in NY Times.
And Obama tells torturers they will not be prosecuted:
Below is AP story and statements from DOJ and POTUS
No charges against CIA officials for waterboarding
By JENNIFER LOVEN and DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration on Thursday informed CIA officials who used waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics on terror suspects that they will not be prosecuted, senior administration officials told The Associated Press.
Even before President Barack Obama took office in January, aides signaled his administration was not likely to bring criminal charges against CIA employees for their roles in the secret, coercive terrorist interrogation program. It had been deemed legal at the time through opinions issued by the Justice Department under the Bush administration.
But the statement being issued Thursday by Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's chief law enforcement officer, is the first definitive assurance that those CIA officials are in the clear, as long as their actions were in line with the legal advice at the time.
The officials spoke about the Holder statement ahead of its release on condition of anonymity, so as not to pre-empt the attorney general.
The CIA has acknowledged using waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, on three high-level terror detainees in 2002 and 2003, with the permission of the White House and the Justice Department. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said waterboarding has not been used since, but some human rights groups have urged Obama to hold CIA employees accountable for what they, and many Obama officials and others around the world, say was torture.
The Holder statement was being issued by the Justice Department along with the release of four significant Bush-era legal opinions governing — in graphic and extensive detail — the interrogation of terror detainees, the officials said. One of the memos was produced by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in August 2002, the other three in 2005.
The memos, released to meet a court-approved deadline in a lawsuit against the government in New York by the American Civil Liberties Union, detail the dozen harsh techniques approved for use by CIA interrogators, the officials said. A statement from Obama was also being released along with Holder's comments and the documents.
One memo specifically authorized a method for combining multiple techniques, a practice human rights advocates argue is particularly harmful and crosses the line into torture even if any of the individual methods do not.
The Obama administration last month released nine legal memos related to the interrogation program, and probably will release more as the lawsuit proceeds. But the four released Thursday represent the fullest accounting by the government of the methods authorized and used, and is the complete list, the officials said.
There is very little redaction, or blacking out, of detail in the memos, the officials said.
The methods include keeping detainees naked for long periods, keeping them in a painful standing position for long periods, and depriving them of solid food. Other tactics included using a plastic neck collar to slam detainees into walls, keeping the detainee's cell cold for long periods, and beating and kicking the detainee. Sleep-deprivation, prolonged shackling, and threats to a detainee's family were also used.
Among the things not allowed in the memo were allowing a prisoner's body temperature or caloric intake to fall below a certain level, because either could cause permanent damage, the officials said.
The techniques were applied to 14 suspects considered very senior terrorists.
Many of the methods were detailed in a secret 2007 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The New York Review of Books recently obtained a copy of the report.
The ACLU suit has sought to use the Freedom of Information Act to shed light on the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad — even though the Bush administration eventually abandoned many of the legal conclusions and the Obama administration has gone further to actively dismantle most of President George W. Bush's anti-terror program.
Obama has ordered the CIA's secret overseas prisons known as "black sites" closed, ended so-called "extraordinary renditions" of terrorism suspects if there is any reason to believe the third country would torture them, and restricted CIA questioners to only those interrogation methods and protocols approved for use by the U.S. military until a complete review of the program is conducted.
Also Thursday, Holder was formally revoking every legal opinion or memo issued during Bush's presidency that justified interrogation programs. Obama had already said his administration would not rely upon them.
Still, the documents have been the subject of a long, fierce debate in and outside government over how much officials should say about the tough treatment of detainees.
The Bush administration held the view that the president had the authority to claim broad powers that could not be checked by Congress or the courts in order to keep Americans safe. Obama and Holder, among others, have said that the use of such unchecked powers has actually made Americans less safe, by increasing anti-U.S. sentiment, endangering American troops when captured and handing terrorists a recruiting tool.
Even so, the officials described the president's process of deciding how much to release in response to the suit as a very difficult one. Four weeks in the making, the process resulted in intense debates involving the president, Cabinet members, lower-level officials and even former administration officials.
Obama was concerned that releasing the information could endanger ongoing operations, American personnel or U.S. relationships with foreign intelligence services. CIA officials, in particular, needed reassuring, the officials said.
But in the end, the view of the Justice Department prevailed, that the FOIA law required the release and that the government would be forced to do so by the court if it didn't do so itself, the officials said. Also, Obama was reassured about the potential national security implications by the fact that much of the information contained in the memos was no longer secret, having been widely publicized — including some of it by Bush himself — and by the fact that the program itself no longer exists.
Those assurances are not likely to innoculate Obama against criticism from conservatives. Last month, Vice President Dick Cheney said, for instance, that Obama's decisions to revoke Bush-era terrorist detainee policies will "raise the risk to the American people of another attack."
Department of Justice Releases Four Office of Legal Counsel Opinions
In connection with ongoing litigation, the Department of Justice today released four previously undisclosed Office of Legal Counsel ("OLC") opinions – one that OLC issued to the Central Intelligence Agency in August 2002 and three that OLC issued to the CIA in May 2005.
"The President has halted the use of the interrogation techniques described in these opinions, and this administration has made clear from day one that it will not condone torture," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "We are disclosing these memos consistent with our commitment to the rule of law."
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.
The Attorney General has informed the Central Intelligence Agency that the government would provide legal representation to any employee, at no cost to the employee, in any state or federal judicial or administrative proceeding brought against the employee based on such conduct and would take measures to respond to any proceeding initiated against the employee in any international or foreign tribunal, including appointing counsel to act on the employee’s behalf and asserting any available immunities and other defenses in the proceeding itself.
To the extent permissible under federal law, the government will also indemnify any employee for any monetary judgment or penalty ultimately imposed against him for such conduct and will provide representation in congressional investigations.
"It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department," Holder said.
After reviewing these opinions, OLC has decided to withdraw them: They no longer represent the views of the Office of Legal Counsel.
Statement of President Barack Obama on Release of OLC Memos
The Department of Justice will today release certain memos issued by the Office of Legal Counsel between 2002 and 2005 as part of an ongoing court case. These memos speak to techniques that were used in the interrogation of terrorism suspects during that period, and their release is required by the rule of law.
My judgment on the content of these memos is a matter of record. In one of my very first acts as President, I prohibited the use of these interrogation techniques by the United States because they undermine our moral authority and do not make us safer. Enlisting our values in the protection of our people makes us stronger and more secure. A democracy as resilient as ours must reject the false choice between our security and our ideals, and that is why these methods of interrogation are already a thing of the past.
But that is not what compelled the release of these legal documents today. While I believe strongly in transparency and accountability, I also believe that in a dangerous world, the United States must sometimes carry out intelligence operations and protect information that is classified for purposes of national security. I have already fought for that principle in court and will do so again in the future. However, after consulting with the Attorney General, the Director of National Intelligence, and others, I believe that exceptional circumstances surround these memos and require their release.
First, the interrogation techniques described in these memos have already been widely reported. Second, the previous Administration publicly acknowledged portions of the program – and some of the practices – associated with these memos. Third, I have already ended the techniques described in the memos through an Executive Order. Therefore, withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that have been in the public domain for some time. This could contribute to an inaccurate accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States.
In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith [good faith belief that torture was legal????] upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution. The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world. Their accomplishments are unsung and their names unknown, but because of their sacrifices, every single American is safer. 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.
Going forward, it is my strong belief that the United States has a solemn duty to vigorously maintain the classified nature of certain activities and information related to national security. This is an extraordinarily important responsibility of the presidency, and it is one that I will carry out assertively irrespective of any political concern. Consequently, the exceptional circumstances surrounding these memos should not be viewed as an erosion of the strong legal basis for maintaining the classified nature of secret activities. I will always do whatever is necessary to protect the national security of the United States.
This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America’s ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.
The United States is a nation of laws. My Administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals. That is why we have released these memos, and that is why we have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again.