White House Denies Authorizing Torture

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The career of Michael Mukasey, President Bush's pick to succeed Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, is inextricably tied to national security. Read more:

The White House on Thursday reiterated its position that the United States does not condone torture. The statement comes in the wake of a New York Times report alleging that the Justice Department authorized harsh interrogation procedures in secret memos.

The Times reported that in 2005, as Congress passed a law banning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees, the Justice Department secretly issued a legal opinion saying that the CIA's harsh interrogation practices are not cruel, inhuman or degrading. Another memo explicitly authorized exposure to extreme temperatures, physical beatings and more.

According to the newspaper, the decision came after the Justice Department publicly withdrew an earlier memo that condoned extreme interrogation procedures.

At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino said the policy of the United States is not to torture.

"The president has not authorized it. He will not authorize it," Perino said. "But he has done everything within the corners of the law to make sure that we prevent another attack on this country."

The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday demanded that the Bush administration hand over copies of those secret memos. The panel also wants to hear testimony from the man who wrote them, Steven Bradbury.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said the next attorney general will have to ensure the Justice Department's independence from the White House.

Confirmation hearings for attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey could come as early as Oct. 17. Civil liberties groups have demanded that he completely repudiate the Bush administration's position on torture.

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