What Was Cheney Thinking?

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, October 30, 2006; 12:56 PM

The one question an unusually dogged White House press corps on Friday demanded that Vice President Cheney address remains unanswered: If he wasn't talking about waterboarding, what did he mean by a "dunk in the water"?

Cheney last week agreed with a radio interviewer's assertion that "a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives." That sure sounded like an endorsement of waterboarding, a brutal interrogation technique widely viewed as torture.

On Friday, White House press secretary Tony Snow and then Cheney himself insisted that he wasn't talking about waterboarding at all.

But is there any other plausible explanation? We have yet to hear it.

Here's the text of Cheney's radio interview, the audio (from WDAY radio in Fargo, N.D.) and a White House photo .

"Q: Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?

"THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president 'for torture.' We don't torture. "

Here is the text of Cheney's fussily parsed and utterly unconvincing response to a reporter's question on Friday, posed aboard Air Force Two:

"I was being interviewed by a talk show host. I don't talk about techniques and I wouldn't. I have said that the interrogation program for a select number of detainees is very important. It has been I think one of the most valuable intelligence programs we have. And I believe it has allowed us to prevent terrorist attacks against the United States. I did not talk about specific techniques involved --

"Q: So it was not about water boarding, even though he asked you about dunking in the water?

"THE VICE PRESIDENT: I didn't say anything about water boarding. Those were all his comments. He didn't even use that phrase.

"Q: He said dunking in the water.

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