The original version of this column included quote marks in the second paragraph around what is a paraphrasing of remarks by White House spokesman Tony Fratto.
We Tortured and We'd Do It Again
Wednesday, February 6, 2008; 12:54 PM
After years of dodging and dissembling, the Bush administration today boldly embraced an interrogation tactic that's been an iconic and almost universally condemned form of torture since the Spanish Inquisition.
President Bush would authorize waterboarding future terrorism suspects if certain criteria are met, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said this morning, one day after the director of the CIA for the first time publicly acknowledged his agency's use of the tactic, which generally involves strapping a prisoner to a board, covering his face or mouth with a cloth, and pouring water over his face to create the sensation of drowning.
Olivier Knox writes for AFP: "The United States may use waterboarding to question terrorism suspects in the future, the White House said Wednesday, rejecting the widely held belief that the practice amounts to torture.
"'It will depend upon circumstances,' spokesman Tony Fratto said, adding 'the belief that an attack might be imminent, that could be a circumstance that you would definitely want to consider.'
"'The president will listen to the considered judgment of the professionals in the intelligence community and the judgment of the attorney general in terms of the legal consequences of employing a particular technique,' he said.
"His comments came one day after CIA director Michael Hayden for the first time admitted publicly that the agency had used 'waterboarding,' a practice that amounts to controlled drowning, to question three top al-Qaeda detainees nearly five years ago.
"After years of insisting that disclosing any specific interrogation techniques would harm US national security, US President George W. Bush 'authorized General Hayden to say what he said,' Fratto told reporters.
"'The cumulative impact of public discussion about that technique led to a consensus that an exception was warranted in this case,' the spokesman said."
Knox writes that Fratto "rejected charges that the tactics the Central Intelligence Agency calls 'enhanced interrogation techniques' amount to torture.
"'Torture is illegal. Every enhanced technique that has been used by the Central Intelligence Agency through this program was brought to the Department of Justice and they made a determination that its use under specific circumstances and with safeguards was lawful,' he said."
And here's the kicker: "Asked whether the White House's reasoning was that torture is illegal, the attorney general has certified that the interrogation practices are legal, therefore those practices are not torture, Fratto replied: 'Sure.'"
Hayden yesterday told the Senate Intelligence Committee: "Let me make it very clear and to state so officially in front of this committee that waterboarding has been used on only three detainees. It was used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It was used on Abu Zubaydah. And it was used on [Abd al-Rahim al-]Nashiri."