Democratic lawmakers are demanding that the White House turn over secret Justice Department memos authorizing harsh interrogation techniques. One opinion in May 2005 reportedly approved tactics including head-slapping, frigid temperatures, and simulated drowning. Bush administration officials said none of the documents signed off on anything that violated anti-torture laws. “This government does not torture people,” President Bush said Friday.

“Torture is back,” said The Philadelphia Inquirer in an editorial. “In fact, it never left the building.” As The New York Times reported, the Bush administration Justice Department issued a directive in 2004 “banning torture as ‘abhorrent,,” only to reverse itself a few months later. And Alberto Gonzalez—then freshly appointed, “now gone, thankfully”—“approved a legal opinion that government officials described to the Times as ‘an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.’" No wonder “the memo was kept secret until now.”

The administration will have to hand over these memos right away to clear this up, said the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in an editorial. The administration has repeatedly insisted that its interrogations of terrorism suspects have been perfectly legal. If that’s true, “why the need for secret” memos? Unless the CIA and the Justice Department come clean, they will “be crushed under the weight of apparent hypocrisy,” and the “already painfully dubious war on terror” will have another strike against it.

The Times article said “most lawmakers” didn't know about the secret memo, said Kevin Drum in The Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog. “That means that some of them did. I'd like to know which ones. I'd also like to hear each of the Democratic candidates tell us whether or not they promise to repudiate all secret Bush administration memorandums on torture and detention during their first day in office. Quickly, please.”