At least one high-profile attorney says the declassified Department of Justice memos detailing interrogation techniques prove the U.S. did not torture, even as the ACLU and some lawmakers claim the memos are proof positive the Bush administration did.
David Rivkin, a constitutional lawyer and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, released a statement Friday saying the release of four memos provides a "great benefit" to the former president.
"This data is analyzed in great detail to establish that the use of these techniques does not inflict either physical or psychological damage," said Rivkin, who served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. "The conclusions (the) memos reach -- that the specific interrogation techniques used by the CIA did not constitute torture -- are eminently reasonable."
But not everyone thinks the memos clear the administration. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, said while he applauds the Obama administration for releasing the memos, their " alarming content requires further action."
These memos, without a shadow of a doubt, authorized torture and gave explicit instruction on how to carry it out, all the while carefully attempting to maintain a legal fig leaf," he said. "These memos make it abundantly clear that the Bush administration engaged in torture. Because torture is illegal under American law -- as the U.S. is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture -- we are legally required to investigate and, when appropriate, to prosecute those responsible for these crimes."
The memos, written between 2002 and 2005, concluded that the interrogation techniques listed in them did not violate anti-torture laws
One May 2005 memo detailed 12 techniques and concluded that none of them constituted torture, while describing how they would result in minimal damage to a detainee.
On dietary manipulation, through which suspects are fed liquid diets, the memo said all detainees would be weighed weekly -- and the restricted diet would be ceased if a detainee loses more than 10 percent of his body weight. On "walling," through which a suspect is slammed into a "flexible, false wall," the memo said the technique is not intended to "inflict any injury or cause severe pain."
Other methods included slapping and placing a prisoner in "stress positions" -- methods the memo said also are not intended to inflict long-term or significant pain.
Those descriptions haven't calmed a number of analysts, activists and lawmakers.
"These memos provide yet more incontrovertible evidence that Bush administration officials at the highest level of government authorized and gave legal blessings to acts of torture that violate domestic and international law," ACLU Director Anthony Romero said in a statement.
Rivkin argued that the documents were "well-written" and featured "careful and nuanced legal analysis." He said the United States did not use "brute force" and the memos prove detainees weren't tortured.
"In short, these memos go a long way towards rebutting shrill and unfair attacks on the integrity of Bush administration officials, and, more generally, on America's honor," he said.
The Obama administration has sought to abolish the legal interpretations in the memos, with Attorney General Eric Holder revoking all Bush-era legal opinions and documents that justified interrogation programs.
President Obama declared the interrogation methods a "thing of the past," but also tried to assure CIA operatives they would not be prosecuted for their actions provided they followed the legal advice of the Justice Department.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., though, released a statement suggesting that anyone who gave "improper legal advice" or authorized the program or used non-approved techniques should be prosecuted.
"The so-called enhanced interrogation program was a violation of our core principles as a nation and those responsible should be held accountable," he said.
The handling of the interrogation issue has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle, as liberals criticize Obama for protecting CIA agents and conservatives chastise the administration for releasing the memos.
Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said the decision to release the memos was "reckless."
"These are people that cut off people's heads," Perino said of terrorists. "I do not think that they think about the fact that they will be withheld sleep is something that they cannot abide by."
Michael Chertoff, former homeland security secretary, told FOX News the release gives terrorists advanced notice of what to expect during interrogation. Former CIA chief Michael Hayden said it could have a chilling effect on CIA agents' work.
Perino suggested the interrogation techniques were critical, saying intelligence was a "key part" of keeping the U.S. safe.
"I think the correct course is the last seven-and-a-half years when President Bush was in office. We were not attacked again and there is a reason for that. It was not an accident," she said.
Rivkin said releasing the memos "rendered (the interrogation techniques) essentially unusable in the future," since U.S. enemies will train their operatives to "withstand" the techniques.
But Obama said in his statement that the information in the memos was already "widely reported," before his administration released them.
"The United States is a nation of laws. My administration will always act in accordance with those laws and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals. That is why we have released these memos, and that is why we have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again," he said.