Listen up, America: Elections have consequences. The much-debated, much denounced series of so-called "torture memos" prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel under George W. Bush have been released in edited form by the Obama administration. The document dump accompanies a statement by the president, avowing that torture methods

undermine our moral authority and do not make us safer. Enlisting our values in the protection of our people makes us stronger and more secure. A democracy as resilient as ours must reject the false choice between our security and our ideals, and that is why these methods of interrogation are already a thing of the past.

The series is a must read for Americans who value civil liberties, even in a time of suspicion and war. You can find the memos here, or read an ACLU summary and report here.

Going forward, the primary question seems to be whether those CIA parties responsible for the torture will be prosecuted or not. The first statement by the president and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, seems to suggest that parties who engaged in the acts detailed in the memos (from confining detainees in small spaces with insects, to repeatedly slamming them against a wall, to waterboarding) will receive immunity because, at the time, these memos told them it was okay. But another strain of speculation posits that Holder and Obama framed the debate so that ANY deviation from the terms set out in these memos (say, pouring water on a detainee that is below the mandated 41 degrees Fahrenheit) could be viewed as “bad faith” interrogation—and leave perpetrators open to punishment.

Marc Ambinder, Adam Serwer and Spencer Ackerman have lots more. And we’ll have more legal analysis here at THE ROOT in the next few days. But here, for now are my favorite (if by favorite you mean most jaw-dropping) excerpts from the memos:

[T]he fact that a victim might have avoided being tortured by cooperating with the perpetrator would not render permissible the resort to conduct that would otherwise constitute torture under the statute.

Hmm. Even more legalese awaits:

[A]lthough we understand that the CIA's guidelines would allow another session of sleep deprivation to begin after the detainee has gotten at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep following 180 hours of sleep deprivation, we will evaluate only one application of up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation

Because it’s more convenient for them that way. And the piece de resistance, on forced starvation:

[A]lthough we do not equate a person who voluntarily enters a weight-loss program with a detainee subjected to dietary manipulation as an interrogation technique, we believe that it is relevant that several commercial weight loss programs available in the United States involve similar or even greater reductions in caloric intake.

Rather like Weightwatchers.

In all seriousness: Take Friday to read the memos yourselves here and here. And point out any wild and crazy inconsistencies you find in comments.



UPDATE: THE ROOT's Cherrilyn Ifill takes on the memos here.

Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.