- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2006


The Navy’s former general counsel warned Pentagon officials two years before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal that circumventing international agreements on torture and detainees’ treatment would invite abuse, a published report shows.

Legal theories granting the president the right to authorize abuse in spite of the Geneva Conventions were unlawful, dangerous and erroneous, Alberto J. Mora advised officials in a secret memo. The 22-page document was obtained by the New Yorker for a story in its Feb. 27 issue.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said yesterday that she had not read the magazine story.

The memo from July 7, 2004, recounted Mr. Mora’s 2-year effort to halt a policy that he feared would authorize cruelty toward suspected terrorists.

It also indicates that some lawyers in the Justice and Defense departments objected to the legal course the administration undertook, the report says.

Mr. Mora said Navy intelligence officers reported in 2002 that military intelligence interrogators at the prison at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were engaging in escalating levels of physical and psychological abuse rumored to have been authorized at a high level in Washington.

“I was appalled by the whole thing,” Mr. Mora told the magazine. “It was clearly abusive, and it was clearly contrary to everything we were ever taught about American values.”

Mr. Mora said he discovered in January 2003 that a Justice Department opinion had negated his arguments with what he described as “an extreme and virtually unlimited theory of the extent of the president’s commander-in-chief authority.”

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