President Obama wrote a letter today addressed to the "Men and Women of the CIA" and told them that he had not made the decision to release the opinions "lightly," but that he believed "the release of these memos is required by our commitment to the rule of law."
In his letter, Obama assured the members of the intelligence community that this is a "time for reflection, not retribution" and that those who "acted reasonably and relied upon legal advice from the Department of Justice" would be protected.
"The attorney general has assured me that these individuals will not be prosecuted and that the government will stand by them," the president wrote.
In 2008, Bradbury testified on Capitol Hill about the still-secret memos and told Congress that he believed the use of waterboarding "subject to strict limitations and safeguards" was not torture.
He also counseled House members that descriptions of waterboarding that had surfaced in the public debate, including references to the Spanish Inquisition, "bear no resemblance to what the CIA did."
At the hearing, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., praised Bradbury.
"Severe interrogations are unpleasant, to be very sure," Franks said. "But Mr. Chairman, they are sometimes necessary to prevent severe consequences that potentially involve the violent deaths of thousands of innocent American citizens."
The CIA says the waterboarding technique was never used after 2003 and that the technique was suspended in 2006.
The International Committee for the Red Cross wrote a memo in February 2007 documenting an interview it did with Zubaydah regarding his experience with the technique called "suffocation by water."
In the report, first revealed by the New York Review of Books, Zubaydah said, "I was put on what looked like a hospital bed, and strapped down very tightly with belts. A black cloth was then placed over my face and the interrogators used a mineral water bottle to pour water on the cloth so that I could not breathe."
The ICRC determined that the interrogation techniques "either singly or in combination, constituted torture."
Earlier this month, CIA Director Leon Panetta announced that the CIA no longer operates detention facilities to detain terrorism suspects. He added that the CIA no longer employs enhanced interrogation techniques that were authorized by both the Bybee and Bradbury memos.
Attorney General Eric Holder signaled early in his tenure that, contrary to the Bush administration, he considered waterboarding to be torture.
In his confirmation hearing, he told senators, "If you look at the history of the use of that technique used by the Khmer Rouge, used in the Inquisition, used by the Japanese and prosecuted by us as war crimes. We prosecuted our own soldiers for using it in Vietnam."
Both the Bush and Obama administrations came under heavy pressure to release the memos since it was first revealed that the OLC, which renders legal opinions to the executive branch, was producing opinions on interrogation procedures.
Administration sources said that the decision to release the documents , with mild redactions, caused controversy with some in the administration who felt that the release might damage national security.