A team of administration lawyers concluded in a March 2003
legal memorandum that President Bush was not bound by either an
international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal antitorture law
because he had the authority as commander in chief to approve any technique
needed to protect the nation’s security.
The memo, prepared for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, also said that
any executive branch officials, including those in the military, could be
immune from domestic and international prohibitions against torture for a
variety of reasons.
One reason, the lawyers said, would be if military personnel believed that
they were acting on orders from superiors “except where the conduct goes so
far as to be patently unlawful.”
“In order to respect the president’s inherent constitutional authority to
manage a military campaign,” the lawyers wrote in the 56-page confidential
memorandum, the prohibition against torture “must be construed as
inapplicable to interrogation undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief