The Bush administration is reported to have given its approval to the Central Intelligence Agency to use insects as a method of torture against Guantanamo Bay detainees.
The New York Times quotes the Justice Department as saying in a report the methods approved by the Bush administration for extracting information from senior operatives of Al Qaeda in careful detail - like keeping detainees awake for up to 11 straight days, placing them in a dark, cramped box or putting insects into the box to exploit their fears.
The interrogation methods were authorized beginning in 2002, and some were used as late as 2005 in the C.I.A.'s secret overseas prisons.
The techniques were among the Bush administration's most closely guarded secrets, and the documents released Thursday afternoon were the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the program.
The release of the documents came after a bitter debate that divided the Obama administration, with the C.I.A. opposing the Justice Department's proposal to air the details of the agency's long-secret program.
Together, the four memos give an extraordinarily detailed account of the C.I.A.'s methods and the Justice Department's long struggle, in the face of graphic descriptions of brutal tactics, to square them with international and domestic law.
Passages describing forced nudity, the slamming of detainees into walls, prolonged sleep deprivation and the dousing of detainees with water as cold as 41 degrees alternate with elaborate legal arguments concerning the international Convention Against Torture.
The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, the highest authority in interpreting the law in the executive branch, wrote the four legal opinions, released in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the A.C.L.U., in 2002 and 2005.