[JURIST] Leading Democrats on Capitol Hill on Thursday demanded that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] hand over two 2005 legal opinions that reportedly endorse severe interrogation techniques [JURIST report]. Earlier Thursday, the New York Times first reported that the DOJ circulated internal memos, the first of which was released soon after Alberto Gonzales became US Attorney General in February 2005 and reversed the DOJ's position that such interrogation techniques are "abhorrent" and to be avoided. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) [official website] quickly sent a letter to acting Attorney General Peter Keisler demanding the internal memos, advising the DOJ that that the administration will lose credibility if the DOJ fails to hand the memos to Congress, and chiding the DOJ for allowing the Intelligence Committee to find out more information from the media than the department itself. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] said that the Judiciary Committee has tried to obtain the legal opinions on interrogations for two years, saying they interpreted the law "in secret." Leahy added that the Judiciary Committee will carefully question attorney general nominee Michael B. Mukasey [WH factsheet] on his views of interrogation tactics at upcoming Senate confirmation hearings. House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) [official websites] called the memos "extremely troubling" in a letter to Keisler, while also demanding that the DOJ acting chief counsel Steven Bradbury be made available for committee hearings.
Around the time Congress was considering a statutory ban on "cruel, inhuman and degrading" interrogation techniques [JURIST document], the DOJ circulated a second classified opinion stating that all techniques used by the CIA are legal under that standard. President George W. Bush signed the defense spending bill containing the anti-torture language [JURIST report] on the last day of 2005. Officials speaking to the Times on condition of anonymity said the 2005 opinions remain in effect today and have been confirmed by subsequent internal legal memoranda. AP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.