By PAUL ELIAS
SAN FRANCISCO -- An appeals court said Wednesday a former senior Department of Justice lawyer who wrote the so-called "torture memos" authorizing harsh treatment of suspected terrorists is protected from lawsuits.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a convicted terrorist's lawsuit filed against John Yoo.
Jose Padilla alleged Yoo's memos allowed for his captors to subject him to harsh interrogation that amounted to unconstitutional torture.
Yoo wrote memos on interrogation, detention and presidential powers for the department's Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003.
The appeals court ruled that it was unclear at the time whether the interrogation methods Yoo authorized amounted to torture.
The court also said it was unclear whether Padilla, as an "enemy combatant," was entitled to the same constitutional protections as criminal defendants.
The memos have been embroiled in national security politics for years. The memos laid out a broad interpretation of executive power, one the previous administration also used to authorize warrantless wiretapping and secret prisons.