Cheney Defends 'Dunk in the Water' Remark

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 28, 2006

Vice President Cheney said yesterday that he was not referring to an interrogation technique known as "waterboarding" when he told an interviewer this week that dunking terrorism suspects in water was a "no-brainer."

Cheney told reporters aboard Air Force Two last night that he did not talk about any specific interrogation technique during his interview Tuesday with a conservative radio host.

"I didn't say anything about waterboarding. . . . He didn't even use that phrase," Cheney said on a flight to Washington from South Carolina.

Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters that the vice president was talking literally about "a dunk in the water," though neither Snow nor Cheney explained what that meant or whether such a tactic had been used against U.S. detainees.

"A dunk in the water is a dunk in the water," Snow said.

The comments were aimed at calming a growing furor over Cheney's comments, which were taken by many human rights advocates and legal experts as an endorsement of waterboarding as a method of questioning.

Coming shortly before the midterm elections, the remarks prompted a wide range of political figures -- from Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to Cheney's wife, Lynne -- to weigh in on the issue, providing another unexpected controversy for Republicans as they fight to keep control of Congress. Reporters peppered Snow with questions about the interview during Snow's two daily news briefings.

Waterboarding, in which a prisoner is secured with his feet above his head and has water poured on a cloth over his face, is one of several methods of simulating drowning that date at least to the Spanish Inquisition. It has been specifically prohibited by the U.S. Army and widely condemned as torture by human rights groups and international courts.

"Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" Scott Hennen of WDAY in Fargo, N.D., asked Cheney on Tuesday. "Well, it's a no-brainer for me," Cheney responded.

Cheney also said he agreed with Hennen that the debate over interrogation techniques was "a little silly," and he praised the information obtained from U.S. terrorism suspects during questioning.

Hennen said in an interview yesterday that he did not know precisely which technique Cheney was referring to and was only passing along a question he had heard from a listener.

"It's impossible for me to say 'Did the listener mean waterboarding?' and 'Is waterboarding torture?' and that sort of thing," Hennen said. "I can't get in the vice president's head, and I can't get in the listener's head."

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