CIA Can Skirt Torture Laws, Justice Claims

Letters justify legal 'latitude' for tactics to prevent terrorism
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 27, 2008 8:11 AM CDT
CIA Can Skirt Torture Laws, Justice Claims
Protestors demonstrate the use of waterboarding on a volunteer in front of the Justice Department in Washington last year.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, file)

International anti-torture laws don't necessarily apply to CIA agents fighting terrorism, the Justice Department has explained to Congress in letters recently made public, reports the New York Times. The letters reveal the White House position that interrogators have some legal "latitude" outside the Geneva Conventions protecting detainees from "outrages upon personal dignity."

The information indicates that Justice Department officials believe cases should be judged individually in part based on the intent of an interrogator—whether it’s to prevent terrorist attacks or to humiliate. One law expert slammed logic which could use terrorism as an excuse for illegal questioning tactics. “What they are saying is that if my intent is to defend the United States rather than to humiliate you, then I have not committed an offense,” he said. (More interrogation techniques stories.)

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