Washington, D.C. The Pentagon on Tuesday made public a now-defunct legal memo that approved the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terror suspects, saying that President Bush's wartime authority trumps any international ban on torture.
The Justice Department memo, dated March 14, 2003, outlines legal justification for military interrogators to use harsh tactics against al-Qaida and Taliban detainees overseas - so long as they did not specifically intend to torture their captives.
Even so, the memo noted, the president's wartime power as commander in chief would not be limited by the U.N. treaties against torture.
"Our previous opinions make clear that customary international law is not federal law and that the president is free to override it at his discretion," said the memo written by John Yoo, who was then deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.
The memo also offered a defense in case any interrogator was charged with violating U.S. or international laws.
"Finally, even if the criminal prohibitions outlined above applied, and an interrogation method might violate those prohibitions, necessity or self-defense could provide justifications for any criminal liability," the memo concluded.
The memo was rescinded in December 2003.