The Justice Department on Monday released a long-secret legal document from 2001 in which the Bush administration claimed the military could search and seize terror suspects in the United States without warrants.
The legal memo was written about a month after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. It says constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure would not apply to terror suspects in the U.S., as long as the president or another high official authorized the action.
Even after the Bush administration rescinded that legal analysis, the Justice Department refused to release its contents, prompting a standoff with congressional Democrats.
The memo was one of nine released Monday by the Obama administration.
Another memo showed that, within two weeks of Sept. 11, the administration was contemplating ways to use wiretaps without getting warrants.
The author of the search and seizure memo, John Yoo, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
In that memo, Yoo wrote that the president could treat terrorist suspects in the United States like an invading foreign army. For instance, he said, the military would not have to get a warrant to storm a building to prevent terrorists from detonating a bomb.
Yoo also suggested that the government could put new restrictions on the press and speech, without spelling out what those might be.
"First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully," Yoo wrote, adding later: "The current campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically."
While they were once important legal pillars of the U.S. fight against al-Qaida, some of the memos were withdrawn in the final days of the Bush administration.
In one of his first official acts as president, Barack Obama also signed an order negating the memos' claims until his administration could conduct a thorough review.
In a speech Monday, Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder said that too often in the past decade the fight against terrorism has been put in opposition to "our tradition of civil liberties."
That "has done us more harm than good," he declared. "I've often said that the test of a great nation is whether it will adhere to its core values not only when it is easy but when it is hard."