The U.S. Justice Department has sent correspondence to Congress which defends the use of controversial interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects.
In the letters, department lawyers argue the government must take into account the type of information a suspect possesses, and whether it could be used to prevent a terrorist attack. The lawyers contend that could allow for interrogators to use methods that are otherwise banned by international law.
The Geneva Conventions prohibit any questioning techniques that constitute "outrages upon personal dignity."
One official, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, wrote that using harsh techniques to stop terrorism is legal because the intent is not to humiliate or degrade the suspect.
The letters were released by opposition Democratic Senator Ron Wyden from the northwest state of Oregon, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
U.S. President George Bush vetoed legislation last month that would have outlawed the use of controversial interrogation techniques, including "waterboarding," or simulated drowning.
Mr. Bush said the bill would have taken away a "vital tool" in the war on terror. He also said "specialized interrogation procedures" had helped disrupt planned attacks on the U.S. and its forces abroad.
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.