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Document a Day: Calling the Illegal "Legal"

Larry Siems,
The Torture Report
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June 8, 2010

This undated summary of legal advice provided by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) chronicles the systematic manner in which government lawyers authorized abusive interrogations for both the CIA and Department of Defense.

As we have seen in the past few days, the Department of Defense’s interrogation program, though it did not involve waterboarding, used many other “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” and was every bit as brutal in its impact—and undoubtedly much more widespread.

Note not only the similarity of techniques, but also the OLC’s consistent advice regarding supposed defenses to the use of torture. According to the OLC, an interrogator who engaged in torture might claim that he was acting out of necessity or self defense. Those defenses are specifically prohibited by Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”


To read more about and see documentary evidence of the Bush administration’s torture program, go to

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