Democrats from the Senate and House demanded the administration turn over two purported Justice Department memos said to have been issued in secret that reportedly allow the torture of individuals suspected of terrorism.

The memos referred to as “Justice department legal opinions” were said to have been issued in 2005. Spokes people from both the Justice Department and White house quickly claimed if such memos were to exist. They would not reverse standing administration policy established in 2004 that at least publicly renounced torture. The Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) sent a letter to the acting attorney general saying the administration’s credibility was at risk.

These memos are “critical to an appropriate assessment” of tactics approved by the White House and the Justice Department, Rockefeller wrote to Acting Atty. Gen. Peter D. Keisler. “Why should the public have confidence that the program is either legal or in the best interests of the United States?” he asked.

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and House Judiciary Committee member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) promised  congressional inquiry into the alleged memos, which said to explicitly authorized painful and psychological tactics.

“Both the alleged content of these opinions and the fact that they have been kept secret from Congress are extremely troubling, especially in light of the department’s 2004 withdrawal of an earlier opinion similarly approving such methods,” Conyers and Nadler wrote to Keisler on Thursday.

They also asked that Steven G. Bradbury, who heads D.O.J  Office of Legal Counsel, “be made available for prompt committee hearings.”

The purported memos were first made public in Thursday’s editions of the New York Times It said the memo authorized during terrorism interrogations blows to the head, human freezing and water-boarding. The purported legal opinions were issued after Alberto R. Gonzales became attorney general in February 2005, And seem to contradict a December 2004 public opinion, Which declared torture “abhorrent,”

A second secret Justice Department opinion said to have been issued in 2005, as Congress worked on an anti-torture bill. Purportedly claims none of the CIA’s interrogation practices would violate the legislation’s bans on “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of detainees.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse insists the 2004 legal brief which declares torture abhorrent is really the  one in effect. “Neither Attorney General Gonzales nor anyone else within the department modified or withdrew the 2004 opinion,” Roehrkasse said in a statement. “Accordingly, any advice that the department would have provided in this area would rely upon, and be fully consistent with, the legal standards articulated in the prior memorandum.”

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told reporters: “This country does not torture. It is a public policy of the United States that we do not torture. But Perino would not comment on whether the 2005 opinions in fact authorized torture, She initially claimed the classified opinion was dated Feb. 5, 2005, but White House spokesman Tony Fratto then issued a statement, saying the memo was dated months later. While yet Another administration official claimed a May 2005 time frame.

Legal experts point out if a secret legal opinion were issued allowing torture contrary to a prior public memo that prohibits the practice. Individuals who may have reason to fear criminal prosecution for having engaged in torture contrary to Federal law would have the right to use the memos as a defense in court.

At least one ranking administration official has conceded off the record that “Several” Americana’s who later turned out to be individuals unrelated to suspected terrorists under suspicion. May have been subjected to “intense” questioning and later declined to accept generous cash settlements in the millions. Should republicans fail to retain the white house naturally the individuals responsible for “intense” questioning. Deserve in the view of some in the administration to be protected from any future criminal prosecution.

P.S. Burton

You can E-mail burton@phoenixsentinel.com

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