In an effort to shine the light on the Bush administration's torture tactics, Senator Ron Wyden has released some unclassified correspondence he has had with the Department of Justice.
In the correspondence, the Bush administration claims that the definition of torture depends on what information is being sought. From the New York Times:
While the Geneva Conventions prohibit “outrages upon personal dignity,” a letter sent by the Justice Department to Congress on March 5 makes clear that the administration has not drawn a precise line in deciding which interrogation methods would violate that standard, and is reserving the right to make case-by-case judgments.
“The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act,” said Brian A. Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general, in the letter, which had not previously been made public.
Senator Wyden, who serves on the Intelligence Committee, is concerned that this approach will put American troops at risk the next time that Americans are captured as prisoners of war.
Mr. Wyden said he was concerned that, under the new rules, the Bush administration had put Geneva Convention restrictions on a “sliding scale.”
If the United States used subjective standards in applying its interrogation rules, he said, then potential enemies might adopt different standards of treatment for American detainees based on an officer’s rank or other factors.
“The cumulative effect in my interpretation is to put American troops at risk,” Mr. Wyden said.