A Senate Democrat who will chair its Judiciary Committee next year asked the Justice Department to release newly acknowledged documents setting US policy on how suspects in the war on terrorism are detained and interrogated.
"The American people deserve to have detailed and accurate information about the role of the Bush administration in developing the interrogation policies and practices that have engendered such deep criticism and concern at home and around the world," Sen. Patrick Leahy wrote Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Leahy demanded two documents whose existence the CIA recently acknowledged in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
"If President Bush and the Justice Department authorized the CIA to torture its prisoners, the public has a right to know," said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU attorney involved in the case.
The first document is a directive Bush signed giving the CIA authority to set up detention facilities outside the US and outlining interrogation methods that may be used against detainees.
The second is a 2002 memo from the Justice Department's office of Legal Counsel to the CIA General Counsel regarding interrogation methods that the spy agency may use against top al-Qaida members.
Leahy asked Gonzales to produce any revisions and analyses of those and other memos. He also requested agency documents that interpret the scope of interrogation practices permitted and prohibited by the detainee Treatment Act or the Military Commissions Act.
The Justice Department will respond appropriately, spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Friday. But he added that "it is vital to protect national security secrets," particularly in sensitive programs overseen by that intelligence committees. Roehrkasse also said the department will weigh whether the documents being sought fall under the category of confidential deliberations, including legal advice.