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"Holy Hell" in Torture Memo Fight:

It appears the Obama Administration remains divided over whether to release additional OLC "torture memos." Attorney General Eric Holder wants to release the memos, but high-level intelligence officials, including John Brennan and Leon Panetta, are opposed. Michael Isikoff reports:

the White House last month had accepted a recommendation from Attorney General Eric Holder to declassify and publicly release three 2005 memos that graphically describe harsh interrogation techniques approved for the CIA to use against Al Qaeda suspects. But after the story, U.S. intelligence officials, led by senior national-security aide John Brennan, mounted an intense campaign to get the decision reversed, according to a senior administration official familiar with the debate. "Holy hell has broken loose over this," said the official, who asked not to be identified because of political sensitivities. . . .

The continued internal debate explains the Justice Department's decision late Thursday to ask a federal judge for another two-week delay (until April 16) to file a final response in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union seeking the release of the memos. The ACLU agreed to the two-week delay only after Justice officials represented that "high-level Government officials will consider for possible release" the three 2005 memos as well as another Aug. 1, 2002, memo on torture, that has long been sought by congressional committees and members of Congress, according to a motion filed by Justice lawyers with U.S. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in New York, who is overseeing the case.

The 2002 memo, written by former Justice lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo, concluded that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques could be used against Qaeda suspects without violating a federal law that prohibits torture. That memo was publicly withdrawn by the Justice Department in 2004 after its existence became publicly known and sparked a public controversy. But a new set of Justice lawyers—led by Steven Bradbury, the newly installed chief of the department's Office of Legal Counsel—later secretly authored additional memos in the spring of 2005 that essentially approved the same techniques, permitting the agency to barrage terror suspects with a combination of physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping and frigid temperatures, according to a 2007 New York Times account. Those memos concluded that the harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA would not violate Geneva Conventions restrictions on "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners.

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