Factual Questions Raised About 2007 Bush Administration Memo On Harsh Interrogation

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On July 20, 2007, the Bush Administration’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a memo authorizing the CIA to use forced stress positions to keep certain Al Qaeda detainees awake for four days, or longer with additional approval. In making this argument, deputy assistant attorney general Steven Bradbury cited a classified CIA briefing for certain members of Congress, who, he wrote, failed to express “the view that the CIA detention and interrogation program should be stopped, or that the techniques at issue were inappropriate.”

But in my new story on Time.com, written with Bobby Ghosh, a number of people, including Sen. John McCain, say that the Bradbury account of those private conversations is inaccurate. If Bradbury was wrong about his facts, then at least part of the legal justification for harsh interrogation is also called into question.

As our article explains:

The CIA account of the congressional briefing was used by Bradbury to argue that prolonged sleep deprivation did not “shock the conscience,” a legal standard based on the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment right to due process. While “not conclusive on the Constitutional question,” Bradbury argued that the lack of objections from members of Congress following the classified briefing contributed to providing “a relevant measure of contemporary standards.” If Bradbury had concluded that extended sleep deprivation did “shock the conscience,” the technique would have been illegal under the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which applied constitutional standards to the treatment of CIA detainees.

Months after memo was written, one CIA detainee was kept awake for six consecutive days in stress positions, according to recently released Justice Department documents from 2007. To read the entire Time.com story, click here.