Washington: The House Judiciary Committee chairman said on Thursday that an interview with a former Justice Department official shows the department did not authorise some of the harsh interrogation techniques reportedly used by the CIA.
Rep John Conyers, a Democrat, made the comments after the committee interviewed former assistant attorney general, Jay Bybee, who is now a federal appeals court judge.
During the Bush administration, Bybee`s Justice Department office wrote legal opinions governing the interrogation techniques used on terrorism detainees.
According to Conyers, Bybee`s statements are highly relevant to a criminal investigation of alleged detainee abuse during the Bush administration.
The committee`s ranking Republican, Lamar Smith, said he appreciated Bybee`s "thorough effort to be truthful and forthcoming”. Smith said Democrats would rather criticise Bush administration policies "that kept America safe”.
The interview transcript shows that committee members asked Bybee whether such reported practices as dousing detainees with water and using repetitive noise or loud music to keep prisoners awake were done without specific authorisation by the Office of Legal Counsel, which Bybee headed.
Bush administration officials obtained legal advice on the CIA interrogations by bringing lists of planned techniques, or assumptions, to Bybee`s office for analysis.
"So if these things occurred, dousing with cold water, subjecting to loud music to keep people from falling asleep, if that occurred, that means they were done without specific OLC authorisation?" Bybee was asked.
"That`s right,`` Bybee replied.
"So the answer is `yes?`" a questioner asked.
"Those techniques were not authorised," Bybee replied.
Bybee subsequently modified his statements.
Under questioning about some of the reported techniques, Bybee said that "the assumptions on which we were given this were not authorised specifically" by OLC. The transcript shows that Bybee later proposed a change in his testimony to say that "if the assumptions that we were given changed, they were not authorised specifically" by OLC lawyers.