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US Interrogation Memos Detail Harsh Methods

Newly released U.S. interrogation memos reveal harsh techniques approved by the Bush administration for use by the Central Intelligence Agency against terror suspects.

Four Bush-era memos, released by the Justice Department Thursday, outline methods such as using a plastic neck collar to repeatedly slam a prisoner into a wall, confining a suspect in a box with insects, keeping detainees naked, and standing in painful positions. The memos also approve slapping, sleep deprivation, and waterboarding - a technique that simulates drowning.

In a statement, U.S. President Barack Obama said his administration will not prosecute agents who carried out the harsh interrogations, but he left open the possibility of prosecuting anyone who acted without legal authority.

Michael Hayden, who led the CIA under then-President George W. Bush, blasted the release, saying foreign governments will think the CIA "can't keep a secret" and are now less likely to cooperate with the United States.

Current CIA director Leon Panetta released a statement Thursday, saying there are new policies in place, but he strongly opposes efforts to prosecute those who were carrying out interrogation practices that had been approved at the time.

The director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, said it is important to remember that the CIA was struggling to obtain critical information from captured al-Qaida leaders after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In a statement, he said those techniques will not be used in the future.

The memos were released Thursday to meet a federal court deadline in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

An ACLU spokesman, Alex Abdo, praised the Obama administration for releasing the memos but said transparency is not enough.

The rights group Amnesty International welcomed the documents' release but criticized the government's decision to not hold accountable those responsible for committing "acts of torture."

Some information for this report was provided by AP.