I am not "comforted" by President Bush's statement that "the instructions went out to our people to adhere to the law" regarding treatment of prisoners [news story, June 11]. That is especially the case when I hear that the Justice Department has produced a 50-page memorandum construing that law so as to rank executive prerogative ahead of the Geneva Conventions to permit torture, maybe to the point just short of death, permanent injury or organ failure.

Torture was wrong when people inflicted it in the Inquisition, it was wrong when Adolf Hitler authorized it, it was wrong when Saddam Hussein authorized it, and it is wrong when the United States authorizes or tolerates it -- even if we "torture" the law into some pretense of allowing or tolerating torture.

The outrage of Sept. 11, 2001, does not authorize the outrage of torture.

I would be more comforted by an instruction that "no soldier or contractor or agent of the United States will torture a captive in our control."

ROBERT M. SPILLER JR.

McLean

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Doug Santo [letters, June 11] posed hypothetical questions to argue that in some cases torture is justified. Here's a question to counter that:

What if an individual admitted to being an al Qaeda operative only as a result of torture or the threat of torture? Would that be the "green light" for more torture?

From news reports, most of the prisoners we are holding in Iraq do not appear to be "extraordinary"; only the application of torture is.

PATRICIA AIKEN O'NEILL

Bethesda