Washington, Oct 5 (UNI) Debate has erupted in the United States over media disclosure about the treatment given to terrorism suspects in judicial custody by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) .
The Justice Department has secretly approved extremely harsh interrogations, however declaring such actions ''abhorrent'' publicly, the New York Times reported yesterday.
In 2005, the Department secretly issued a legal opinion that supported the most 'inhuman' interrogation methods ever used by the the agency.
The interrogators were given authority to torture prisoners with painful physical as well as psychological tactics, the newspaper quoted the officials, who have seen the legal opinion, as saying.
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States has been criticised for adopting harsh and extreme interrogation techniques.
But, the US Congress and the Supreme Court have taken several steps to counter such abusive acts.
Reiterating its stand over the issue, Democrats on Capitol Hill demanded to see the classified memorandums disclosed by the paper.
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also the West Virginia Democrat, Senator John D Rockefeller IV requested acting attorney general Peter D Keisler, in writing, for copies of all opinions on interrogation since 2004.
A 2005 opinion gave the Justice Department's most authoritative legal approval to the harshest agency techniques, including head slapping, exposure to cold and simulated drowning, even when used in combination.
The second opinion announced that under some circumstances, such techniques were not ''cruel, inhuman or degrading,'' a category of treatment that Congress banned in December 2005.
However, White House spokesperson Dana Perino said the nation did not use torture and it was the US policy not to do so.
''Mr Bush has done everything within the corners of the law to make sure that we prevent another attack on this country,'' she added.
Reacting to the disclosure, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said in light of the administration's apparent retreat from its legal embrace of the harshest tactics in 2004, the 2005 opinions ''are more than surprising'' rather startling.
Members of Congress voted to ban ''cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment'' in December 2005 without knowing that the Justice Department had already decided that the CIA's methods did not violate that standard, he added.
The agency had dropped some of its harshest practices like waterboarding but the 2005 memorandums showed that the administration secretly continued to maintain that such ''practices'' would be legal, intelligence officials said.
A senior administration official disclosed that the opinion on the ''combined effects'' of different techniques was approved in May 2005.
The opinion that the methods were not ''cruel or inhuman'' was approved later in 2005, the official said, adding that both opinions remained in effect.