While George W. Bush’s torture policies stained the reputations of a number of administration lawyers, others have been lauded for their resistance to backing harsh interrogation. However, newly revealed communications show that there was broad consensus in the Justice Department—even among lawyers who opposed such practices—that torture was legal.
Of course there was no shortage of legal opinion to the contrary—outside of the administration.
New York Times:
When Justice Department lawyers engaged in a sharp internal debate in 2005 over brutal interrogation techniques, even some who believed that using tough tactics was a serious mistake agreed on a basic point: the methods themselves were legal.
Previously undisclosed Justice Department e-mail messages, interviews and newly declassified documents show that some of the lawyers, including James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general who argued repeatedly that the United States would regret using harsh methods, went along with a 2005 legal opinion asserting that the techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency were lawful.
That opinion, giving the green light for the C.I.A. to use all 13 methods in interrogating terrorism suspects, including waterboarding and up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation, “was ready to go out and I concurred,” Mr. Comey wrote to a colleague in an April 27, 2005, e-mail message obtained by The New York Times.