I think they wanted to do it regardless of legality and the memos are endless rounds of government cyoa. You see it wasn't us who did it, DOJ said we could, how were we to know? Well the DOJ was just discussing what might be legally permissible, they had no idea what CIA was doing. Well Congress was only informed of what might possibly be done, they had no idea what was happening. Sure, but this is an opinion that could be examined, but it's not like any one of us could attribute personal motivations to anyone involved at the time. The legal aspect takes on an importance because JF (not so much you-maybe to a lesser degree than him) continues to post definitive statements like "the procedures were already illegal under US law.." but this doesn't make any sense because then why was any of this undertaken? Here's a link to the NY Times' copies of the initial memos from 2002 that applied to the CIA. They're 124 pages long, but even just skimming them, you'll notice a request that is repeated over and over is one that asks for legal clarification: NY TIMES HERE These are the same memos that were also supplied to the Congressional Intelligence Committees at the time. At no time did anyone ask "hey, we know this is illegal, but we're going to violate it anyway." At any rate this initial authorization applied to civilian intelligence agencies. The following year, in March 2003, the Department of Defense asked for a new round of legal briefs which would apply to military interrogators, because they had to follow different authorities than the CIA, and there were questions being raised that related to the status of enemy combatants. The 2003 DOD memos comprise 85 pages. Here's the initial request in Jan, 2003 to "establish a working group within the DOD to assess the legal, policy, and operational issues relating to the interrogation..." DOD MEMO Again, the focus here was that no policy existed prior to that point, so one had to be created. And then here's the final authority that was worked out (again, it's 85 pages, but worth the read): DOD HERE and yet again, at no time did anyone suggest in these memos that there was established law in place. I've always asked if people had read the initial authorities, because the process is all there for everyone to see, a process that was about far from what is being now characterized as Mars is.