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Bush Administration’s Legal Debate
Over Torture, Interrogation Policies,
Treatment of Enemy Combatants
and Detainees, and the Applicability
of Prisoner of War Status



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THE WHITE HOUSE

Memo from White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to Pres. George W. Bush (Jan. 25, 2002) [HTML]

  • Gonzales reconsiders, at the request of Secretary of State Colin Powell, Pres. Bush's decision “that al Qaeda and Taliban detainees are not prisoners of war under the [Geneva Convention].” After detailing arguments for and against prisoner of war status, the White House Counsel concludes that “[o]n balance, I believe that the arguments for reconsideration and reversal are unpersuasive.”
Related Links
  • Geneva Conventions & Protocols
  • Alberto Gonzales, White House Counsel
  • U.S. Dept. Of Justice
  • Military Lawyers
  • The Taguba Report
  • Special: The War On Terror
  • Memo from Pres. George W. Bush (Feb. 2, 2002) [PDF]

    • Subject: Human Treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban Detainees

      Relying on the Justice Department’s Jan. 22, 2002 memorandum, and Attorney General John Ashcroft’s Feb. 1, 2002 legal opinion letter, Pres. Bush declines to apply the Geneva Conventions to al Qaeda and Taliban detainees.
    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

    Memo from Asst. U.S. Attorney General Bybee to White House Counsel
    and Dept. of Defense General Counsel (Jan. 22, 2002) [PDF]

    • Subject: Application of Treaties and Laws to al Qaeda and Taliban Detainees

    Letter from U.S. Attorney General Ashcroft's to President Bush (Feb. 1, 2002) [HTML]

    • Subject: Taliban status under Geneva Convention

    Memo from Asst. U.S. Attorney General Bybee to White House Counsel (Feb. 7, 2002) [HTML]

    • Subject: Taliban status under Geneva Convention

    Memo from Asst. U.S. Attorney General Bybee to U.S. Dept. of Defense General Counsel Haynes (Feb. 26, 2002) [PDF]

    • Subject: Potential legal constraints on certain interrogation methods

    Memo from the Dept. of Justice to White House Counsel (August 1, 2002) [PDF]

    • Subject: Standards of Conduct for Interrogation

    Letter from Asst. U.S. Attorney General Bybee to White House Counsel (Aug. 1, 2002) [HTML]

    • Subject: Interrogation and Torture

      Letter from Acting Asst. U.S. Attorney General Daniel Lewin to Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey (Dec. 30, 2004) [PDF]

    • Subject: Justice Dept. memo redefining standards of conduct for interrogations under federal criminal prohibitions against torture.
    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
    Memoranda and correspondence among U.S. Department of Defense officials on interrogation procedures, legal analyses, and orders concerning detainees and prisoners of war.

    Draft Pentagon Working Group Report on "Detainee Interrogations in the Global War on Terrorism" (March 6, 2003) [HTML]

    • The arguments made in the portions of this draft report, originally revealed in an exclusive by Wall Street Journal reporter Jess Bravin, show how Bush administration lawyers rationalized that compliance with international treaties and U.S. laws prohibiting torture could be overlooked because of legal technicalities and national security concerns.

    Memo from Sec'y of Defense Rumsfeld (Jan. 19, 2002) [PDF]

    • Sec'y of Defense Rumsfeld tells the Joint Chiefs of Staff that al Qaeda and Taliban suspects are not entitled to prisoner of war status under the Geneva Conventions

    Message from Chairman Chief of Staff (Jan. 22, 2002) [PDF]

    • Message from Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff to the Unified Commands and Services, informing them that al Qaeda and Taliban detainees are not entitled to prisoner of war status

    Memo to the Commander of Joint Task Force 170 (October 11, 2002) [PDF]

    • From Major General Michael Dunlavey. Includes legal recommendations from a DoD lawyer, Staff Judge Advocate, LTC Diane E. Beaver, that interrogating detainees using certain strategies (e.g., 20 hour interrogations, forced shaving, use of stress-induced phobias like fear of dogs, telling detainee that he or his family are in imminent danger of “fac[ing] death or severely painful consequences”), “do not violate applicable federal law.” but “that interrogations involving Category II and III methods undergo a legal review prior to their commencement.”

    Memo from U.S. Army Commander James T. Hill (Oct. 25, 2002) [HTML]

    • Gen. Hill expresses frustration to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that "some detainees have tenaciously resisted our current interrogation methods," but also remains unclear about the legal status of certain interrogation techniques. He is "particularly troubled by the use of implied or expressed threats of death of the detainee or his family."

    Memo from Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld approving counter resistance techniques (December 2, 2002) [PDF]

    • Rumsfeld suggests that detainees might be forced to stand for 8 – 10 hours a day, and asks “Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”

    Memo from Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s to Commander, SOUTHCOM rescinding certain counter resistance techniques (January 15, 2003) [PDF]

    • Rumsfeld rescinds all Category II interrogation techniques that he approved in his Dec. 2, 2002 memo, and one Category III technique. Requests for using such interrogation methods must be forwarded directly to Rumsfeld, along with a “thorough justification” and "a detailed plan for the use of such techniques.”

    Memo from Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s to General Counsel, U.S. Dept. of Defense (January 15, 2003) [PDF]

    • Rumsfeld asks the Pentagon's top lawyer to form "a working group" in order "to asses the legal, policy, and operational issues relating to the interrogations of detainees held by the U.S. Armed forces in the war on terrorism.


    Sources: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Dept. of Defense, The Wall Street Journal, and George Washington University