DOJ releases Bush administration memos on executive authority in 'war on terror'

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Monday released [press release] two memoranda and seven opinions authored by the White House Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) [official website] during the presidency of George W. Bush [JURIST news archive], supporting the administration's counter-terrorism policies. The opinions, dated between 2001 and 2003, supported the president's broad use of executive authority to detain and hold foreign and US citizen prisoners, approve extraordinary rendition, conduct intelligence gathering, suspend treaty limits on the ballistic missile defense system, and deploy US troops within the country [opinions, PDF] to prevent or fight terrorist activity. The memos, dated 2008 and early 2009 [memoranda, PDF] expressed the OLC's later departure from relying on these justifications. Announcing the release of the documents, Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] said that it was made in an effort increase governmental transparency:

Americans deserve a government that operates with transparency and openness... It is my goal to make OLC opinions available when possible while still protecting national security information and ensuring robust internal executive branch debate and decision-making.
The OLC has previously been criticized for authoring so-called "torture memos" [JURIST news archive] justifying the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods. In February 2008, the DOJ launched an internal probe [JURIST report] into whether top department officials improperly approved the CIA's use of the techniques.

 

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