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New Interrogation Details Emerge as Administration Releases Justice Department Memos

"You need to be fully confident that as you defend the nation, I will defend you," Panetta said.

Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, cited his experience after taking part in the unpopular Vietnam War. "We in the intelligence community should not be subjected to similar pain," he said.

For years, the documents were sought by lawmakers, civil liberties advocates and defense attorneys for men detained in U.S. military prisons. Holder and White House counsel Gregory B. Craig advocated publishing the sensitive documents in their entirety, saying the move would fulfill the president's campaign promises of transparency and underscore the new team's break with the past.

The Bush Justice Department wrote three of the memos in 2005 in response to a request for legal advice from John A. Rizzo, senior deputy general counsel at the CIA, who wanted to know whether the agency's procedures for questioning al-Qaeda operatives complied with laws and international treaties. Those memos were prepared by Steven G. Bradbury, who led the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, an elite band of constitutional scholars who offer advice to the executive branch.

The fourth document dates to August 2002 and was signed by Jay S. Bybee, who served in the Office of Legal Counsel before becoming a federal appeals court judge. That memo involves a single prisoner, alleged al-Qaeda associate Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, better known as Abu Zubaida, whose interrogations began in May 2002.

Administration lawyers gave oral advice to CIA officials in July and offered written versions of their analysis that summer, giving rise to questions among congressional Democrats about whether officials who participated in the interrogation before the advice was proffered could face legal exposure.

Interrogators told Justice Department lawyers that they sought to exploit Abu Zubaida's fear of bugs by telling him that they had put a stinging insect in a small, confined box where he was held for brief periods, when in fact they would introduce a harmless caterpillar instead.

Intelligence officials said yesterday that they had not actually used the practice, which won approval from administration lawyers. In the bulk of their analysis, the lawyers appeared to put significant weight on the question of whether the tactics would cause severe, lasting pain.

Another memo, from May 2005, signed by Bradbury, addressed how CIA officials could employ different combinations of techniques, including a practice known as walling, in which interrogators would press a prisoner's shoulder blades against a fake wall, producing loud noises.

"A detainee may be walled one time (one impact with the wall) to make a point, or twenty to thirty times consecutively when the interrogator requires a more significant response to a question," according to the memo.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said that the documents are "chilling" and that their content "is as alarming as I feared it would be."

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), who has investigated detainee abuse, said that "we must acknowledge and confront these abuses" in order to "restore America's image as a country that not only espouses ideals of human rights, but lives by them."


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