C06541504 Hostile Interrogations Legal Considerations for CIA Officers

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Doc_type: 
Non-legal Memo
Doc_date: 
Monday, November 26, 2001
Doc_rel_date: 
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Doc_text: 

C06541504
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I. U.S. federal law makes it a crime for a U.S. citizen to torture someone both at home arid
abroad; even when directed to do so by superiors.
A. 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340 - 2340B implements the United Nations Convention Against Torture
and Other Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment or Punishmen~ and incorporates
verbatim the definition of "torture" from that treaty; namely, the Convention defines
torture as "an act committed by a person acting under color of law specifically intended
to inflict severe physi\'llf or mental pain or suffering," where "severe mental suffering" is
further defined as "the prolonged mental harm resuiting from" either causing or ·
threatening infliction of severe physical pain; the administration or threat of
administration of mind-altering drugs; the threat of irruninent death; or threateriing to do
the above to someone else.
B. ·Use of necessi~y as a defense to prosecution in a U.S. court
!. Israel's Supreme Court has recognized that govenunent officials who are prosecuted
for torture may use the affumative defense of necessity-Le., "for the purpose of.
saving the life, liberty, body or property, of either himself or his fellow person, from
substantial danger of serious harm, imminent from the particular state of things
(circumstances), at the requisite timing, and absent alternative means for avoiding the
harm."3 That is, a government officer can avoid criminal prosecution if the torture
was necessary to prevent a danger "certain to materialize" and when no other means
of preventing the harm are available.
2. The ruling, however, specifically notes that although necessity can Qe used as a post
factum defense, it cannot serve as a source of positive, ab initio authority for the
systemic (even if rare) use of torture as a valid interrogation tool.
3. The U.S. Code does not contain a statutory necessity defense provision, but U.S.
common law has recognized an analogous doctrine:
• State v. Marley, 509 P.2d 1095, 1097(1973): Defendanrs were charged with
criminal trespass ·on the property of Honeywell Corporation in Honolulu. They
argued that they were seeking to stop the Vietnam War and raised as one of their
defenses the "necessity defense." The court ~lated:
The "necessity defense" exonerates persons .who commit a crime
under the pressure of circumstances if the harm that would have
3 H.C. 5100/94, 4054/95, 6536/95, 5188/96, 7563/97, 7628/97, 1043199 ..
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resulted from compliance with the laW ~ould have significantly
exceeded the harm actually resulting from the defendant's breach of
the law. Successful use of the "necessity defense" requires (a) that
there is no tliird.ari.d legal alternative available, (b)°that the harm to
be prevented be imminent, and (c) that~ direct, causal relationship
be reasonable apticipated to exist between defendant's action and the
avoidance ofharm.
Although the~ court decided the necessity defense was not
available to these particular defendants, the standard they set out is the
norm.
• In United States v. Seward, 687 F.2d 1270, 1275 (10th Cir. 1982)(en
bane), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1147 (1983), the court held that a defendant
may successfully use a defense of necessity to excuse otherwise illegal
acts if (1) there is no legal alternative to violating the iaw, (2) the harm to
be prevented is imminent, and (3) a direct, causal relationship is
reasonable anticipated to exist between defendant's action and the
·avoidance of harm. Under the defense of necessity, "one principle .
remains constant: if there W/!S a reasonable, legal alternative to violaPfig
the law, 'a chance both to refuse to do the criminal act and also to avoid
the threatened harm,' the defenseO wilJ fail," Id. at 1276, quoting United
States v. Bailey. 444 U.S. 394 (1980). In proving that there were no
legal alternatives av.ailable to assist him, a defendant must show he was
"confronted with ... a crisis which did not permit a selection from among
several solutions, some of which did not invoive criminal acts." Id. ·
• See also United States v. Contento-Pachon, 723 F.2d 691, 695 n.2 (9th
Cir. 1984) (defense of necessity available when person faced with a
choice of two. evils and must decide whether to commit a crime or an
alternative act that constitutes a greater evil); United States v. Nola!!, 700
F.2d 479, 484 (9"' Cir.) (the necessity defense requires a showing that the
defendant acted to prevent an imminent harm which no available options
could similarly prevent).
• In sum: U.S. courts have.not yet considered the necessity defe_nse in the C()ntext
of torture/murder/assault cases, primarily because fa cases wliere one or two
individuals were hurt out of necessity, this was treat¢ as a self-defense analysis.
See Tab 2, supra. It would, therefore, be a novel application of the necessity
defense to avoid prosecution ofU;S. officials who'tortiJred to obtain information
that saved many livtls; however, if we follow the Israeli example, CrA could
argue that the torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical .
harm .t o persons, w.h ere there is no other available means to prevent the harm.
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• A policy decision must be made with regard to U.S. use of torture in light of our
obligations under international law, with consideration given to the circumstances and to
international opinion on our current campaign against terrorism-states may be very
unwilling to call the U.S. to task for torture when it resulted in saving thousands of lives.
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Doc_nid: 
11845
Doc_type_num: 
63