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Terror memos authorized harsh interrogation techniques

Obama releases four secret memos detailing detainee treatment under Bush. Human rights groups slam his promise not to prosecute intelligence officials.

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The Obama administration will not prosecute US intelligence officials involved in harsh interrogations of terror suspects, the president pledged on Thursday.

The assurance came as the Justice Department released four secret memos used during the Bush presidency offering legal justification for interrogation techniques that human rights experts classify as torture, such as waterboarding.

The action comes after weeks of heated debate within the administration over whether to release the memos. Some officials were concerned that public disclosure might help Al Qaeda and build momentum for investigation of alleged acts of torture by US intelligence officials.

Many human rights activists have urged the president to authorize an investigation of torture allegations during President Bush's war on terror, with some calling for the appointment of an independent prosecutor.

But the president and Attorney General Eric Holder have decided against that. "This is a time for reflection, not retribution," President Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."

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