DOJ Releases Controversial 'Torture Memos'

Memos detail use of insects, confinement boxes and waterboards under Bush.

ByABC News
April 15, 2009, 1:38 PM

April 16, 2009— -- Months after Sept. 11, 2001, a top Bush administration lawyer authorized the CIA to use interrogation techniques such as the water board, attention grab, sleep deprivation and cramped confinement, finding that the techniques could be used because there was "no specific intent to inflict severe mental pain or suffering."

Such details emerged today as the Justice Department released pages of legal memos from the Bush administration as a part of a Freedom of Information lawsuit brought by the ACLU.

The memos argued that although someone subjected to waterboarding may experience the fear or panic associated with the feeling of drowning, the actual technique "does not in our view inflict severe pain or suffering."

"These memos provide yet more incontrovertible evidence that Bush administration officials at the highest level of government authorized and gave legal blessings to acts of torture that violate domestic and international law," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU.

The memos included an August 2002 legal opinion signed by top Justice Department lawyer Jay Bybee that provided the specific authorization for waterboarding that the CIA would use against three detainees -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri -- in 2002 and 2003.

The memo, written just after the CIA had captured Zubaydah, noted that he had a fear of insects and advised the CIA that they could place the detainee in a box with an insect but that the CIA must "inform him that the insects will not have a sting that would produce death or severe pain."

Bybee revealed in the memo that the CIA was concerned because there was a "level of 'chatter' equal to that which preceded the Sept. 11 attacks" and that Zubaydah is "withholding information."

Bybee noted that the CIA wished to move to an "increased pressure phase."

Also released were three memos written in 2005 by Steven G. Bradbury, who served as principal deputy assistant attorney general in Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). These memos were written, in part, to replace the Bybee memo that the administration withdrew out of fear that the legal analysis was not solid.