Page last updated at 10:23 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 11:23 UK

'Torture' memo inquiry nears end

A detainee being escorted at Guantanamo Bay prison camp
Mr Obama has banned the use of the controversial interrogation techniques

Bush administration lawyers who authorised harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects are unlikely to face criminal charges, US media report.

A justice department inquiry into the lawyers who wrote memos approving techniques such as waterboarding is nearly complete, reports say.

The inquiry's conclusions are said to make no mention of criminal charges.

President Barack Obama, who considers such methods torture, last month made four of the memos public.

But he said CIA agents who followed the memos' advice would not be prosecuted.

The inquiry by the Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal unit in the Department of Justice, is near completion and could be released later this month. It is unlikely to undergo any major alterations, US media report.

Waterboarding: Aimed at simulating sensation of drowning. Used on alleged 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Insect: Harmless insect to be placed with suspect in "confinement box", suspect to be told the insect would sting. Approved for Abu Zubaydah, but not used
Walling: Detainee slammed repeatedly into false wall to create sound and shock
Sleep deprivation: Detainee shackled standing up. Used often, once for 180 hours

Officials have reportedly stopped short of calling for the criminal prosecution of the lawyers who were involved in drafting secret memos outlining the legal justification for using harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects.

They may, however, call on lawyers' professional bodies to consider disciplinary action against those involved.

The main focus of the inquiry has been three lawyers who worked in the department's office of legal counsel during the Bush administration: John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury.

It looked at whether the lawyers acted ethically and competently in writing a series of legal opinions from 2002 to 2007.

The inquiry details how the memos came to be written, following e-mail exchanges between the justice department's lawyers, White House officials and the CIA.

Mr Obama's decision to make the memos public last month prompted an intense debate.

Members of the Bush administration and the CIA objected to their release. Former Vice President Dick Cheney said the published documents did not include those that showed how harsh interrogation delivered intelligence that had saved US lives.

Human rights groups criticised President Obama's decision that CIA interrogators would not face prosecution, saying charges were necessary to prevent future abuses and hold people accountable.

Mr Obama banned the use of the controversial interrogation techniques in his first week in office.

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