Secret Justice Memo Bares CIA Torture Defense

Agents would be safe from prosecution if they acted in good faith
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2008 1:00 AM CDT
John Ashcroft, who served as attorney general when the declassified memos were written.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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(Newser) – The Bush administration advised the CIA in 2002 that its agents would not be prosecuted on anti-torture legislation as long as they professed an "honest belief" that their actions would not cause severe pain and anguish, CNN reports. The memo is one of three made public by the ACLU, and the rights group says they prove the Justice Department essentially sanctioned torture.

"Because specific intent is an element of the offense, the absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture," wrote the assistant attorney general at the time. A second memo says waterboarding falls within accepted guidelines, and a third advised agents to keep detailed records of "enhanced interrogation" sessions.