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Former Navy lawyer warned officials that legal theories could breed detainee abuse

[JURIST] Former US Navy General Counsel Alberto J. Mora [official profile] warned the Pentagon as early as 2002 that legal arguments advanced by Bush administration officials seeking to avoid international prohibitions against torture were wrong and could lead to the abuse of detainees. In a memo dated July 7, 2004 obtained by the New Yorker magazine and disclosed in its forthcoming February 27 print edition, Mora described an unsuccessful two and a half year campaign he fought against administration policies launched well before it became publicly known that US military personnel had abused Iraqi detainees at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive]. In the 2004 memo Mora also claimed that Navy intelligence officers reported in 2002 that Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] military interrogators were using increasingly high levels of abuse, in line with levels supposedly authorized in Washington. Mora told the New Yorker, "I was appalled by the whole thing. It was clearly abusive and it was clearly contrary to everything we were ever taught about American values."

Notes from Pentagon meetings in early 2003 obtained by ABC News in June 2005 disclosed that Mora had expressed concern at that time that aggressive US interrogation practices could implicate superiors in law-breaking [ABC report]: "use of coercive techniques...has military, legal, and political implication...has international implication...and exposes us to liability and criminal prosecution." Mora retired from the Defense Department earlier this year and is now General Counsel for Wal-Mart.

Last week more photos and video images emerged [JURIST report] of US abuses of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib, and a UN human rights panel accused the US of torture at Guantanamo and called upon the US to close the camp [JURIST report]. AP has more.

8:23 AM ET 2/20/06 - The New Yorker report is now available online, along with a copy of the 2004 Mora memo [PDF].

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