The Justice Department has broadened its definition of torture, significantly retreating from a memorandum in August 2002 that defined torture extremely narrowly and said President Bush could ignore domestic and international prohibitions against torture in the name of national security.
Thee new definition was in a memorandum posted on the department’s Web site late Thursday night with no public announcement. It comes one week before the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to question Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel and nominee for attorney general, about his role in formulating legal policies that critics have said led to abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at GuantÃ¡namo Bay, Cuba.
The new memorandum, first reported in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, largely dismisses the August 2002 definition, especially the part that asserted that mistreatment rose to the level of torture only if it produced severe pain equivalent to that associated with organ failure or death.
“Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms,” said the new memorandum written by Daniel Levin, the acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel, which had produced the earlier definition.
Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has sued the administration over its interrogation policies, said Friday that the redefinition “makes it clear that the earlier one was not just some intellectual theorizing by some lawyers about what was possible.”
“It means it must have been implemented in some way,” Mr. Ratner said. “It puts the burden on the administration to say what practices were actually put in place under those auspices.”
As a staunch human rights advocate, I would like to see the U.S. address in some way shape or form, the continued employment of Fran Healy.