WASHINGTON, June 7: US government lawyers contended last year that President George Bush was not bound by laws prohibiting torture and that government agents who might torture prisoners at his direction could not be prosecuted , The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The newspaper said the advice was part of a classified report on interrogation methods prepared for Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in March last year, after commanders at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, complained that they were not getting enough information from prisoners.

The draft report reviewed by the paper examines legal issues related to interrogations and offers definitions of the degree of pain or psychological manipulation that could be considered lawful.

But at its core is an exceptional argument that because nothing is more important than "obtaining intelligence vital to the protection of untold thousands of American citizens", normal strictures on torture might not apply, The Journal said.

Despite domestic and international laws constraining the use of torture, the report argued that the president has the authority as commander-in-chief to approve almost any physical or psychological actions during interrogation, up to and including torture, the paper pointed out.

The report also insisted that civilian or military personnel accused of torture or other war crimes have several potential defences, including the "necessity" of using such methods to extract information to head off an attack, according to The Journal. -AFP

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