At Philosophical Fortnights: A look at one of the memos on torture presented to the White House.
Bush in a press conference after the G8 meeting: “[…] the authorization I issued, David, was that anything we did would conform to U.S. law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations. That's the message I gave our people.” As the press conference continues Bush twice avoids offering an opinion on the morality of torture. Instead he reiterates the claim that his subordinates were told to stay within the law.
No doubt the response was worked out in advance. One could take it to mean that the message to subordinates was: Here are the boundaries; stay within them. But the memo suggests that the message was instead something like: Here are all the avenues by which to escape any penalty for torture. The memo-writers did look at the law; that’s the point: they regarded it as a mere hindrance (or as no hindrance at all, since the memo attributes to the President an inherent power beyond all law).