The findings were part of a classified report on interrogation methods prepared for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by top civilian and uniformed military lawyers who also consulted with other agencies, the newspaper said.
The report was compiled after commanders at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, complained in late 2002 that they were not getting enough information from prisoners through conventional methods, according to the Journal.
Despite domestic and international laws constraining the use of torture, the report argued that the president has the authority as commander in chief to approve almost any physical or psychological actions during interrogation, up to and including torture, the paper pointed out.
The report also insisted that civilian or military personnel accused of torture or other war crimes have several potential defenses, including the "necessity" of using such methods to extract information to head off an attack, according to The Journal.
The document was compiled by a working group appointed by the Defense Department's general counsel, William Haynes, the paper said.
(I'm afraid I don't have access to the WSJ, all I have are these two wire stories.)
Leave aside the astonishing conclusions, a report like that should never have been prepared, much less for the Secretary of Defense by the DoD general counsel.
Update: The Independent Online (South Africa) has the AFP story.