Bush Era Interrogation Memo: Did Not Violate Law Using Torture


Washington—A Bush-era memo was released on Thursday reporting that no laws against torture were broken. The Bush administration administered tactics such as sleep deprivation, slapping, and waterboarding, but with no intent to cause extreme pain.

“To violate the statute, an individual must have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering,” said an August 2002 memo from then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee to John Rizzo, who was acting general counsel for the CIA.

“Because specific intent is an element of the offense, the absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture… We have further found that if a defendant acts with the good faith belief that his actions will not cause such suffering, he has not acted with specific intent,” Bybee wrote.

Specifically, ten interrogation tactics were used against suspected al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah. Bybee’s opinion was sought out to report if those tactics violated the law.

The memo that was released allowed those in charge to keep Zubaydah in a small, dark space that confined his body so that he was unable to move. The memo reported that this tactic was used for no more than two hours at a time. Zubaydah also has a fear of insects, and interrogators knowingly put an insect into the box while telling the detainee that it was a stinging insect. The memo said that this tactic was not illegal, as long as Zubaydah was aware that the insect’s sting could not kill or cause extreme pain.

“If, however, you were to place the insect in the box without informing him that you are doing so … you should not affirmatively lead him to believe that any insect is present which has a sting that could produce severe pain or suffering or even cause his death,” the memo reported.

Other memos allowed the use of sleep deprivation, keeping detainees on a liquid diet, the use of diapers, nakedness, and waterboarding.

Waterboarding is a tactic that restricts a person’s ability to move while spraying water in their breathing zones, thereby inducing a drowning sensation. The memo reported “although the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death, prolonged mental harm must nonetheless result” to violate the law.

“Several of the techniques used by the CIA may involve a degree of physical pain, as we have previously noted, including facial and abdominal slaps, walling, stress positions and water dousing,” it said. “Nevertheless, none of these techniques would cause anything approaching severe physical pain.”

President Barack Obama promised to work to ensure that the actions used in the memos “never take place again.”


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