Cheney says he didn't endorse waterboarding
Vice President Dick Cheney said Friday that he was not referring to an interrogation technique known as waterboarding when he told an interviewer...
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Vice President Dick Cheney said Friday 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 said aboard Air Force Two late Friday 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, D.C., from South Carolina.
Earlier Friday, White House press secretary Tony Snow said 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.
He joked at several points about needing to avoid water-related metaphors, as when he accused reporters of "fishing" for answers.
He declined to say what Cheney meant by dunking terrorism suspects in water but said he would get back to reporters with a fuller explanation, which did not materialize Friday.
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.
In waterboarding, a subject is held or strapped down and his head is held under water or his mouth and nose are smothered by a cloth soaked in water to induce a sensation of drowning.
The technique was used in the Spanish Inquisition and by the Japanese against U.S. prisoners during World War II.
It has been 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 Friday that he did not know precisely which technique Cheney was referring to.
Many legal experts said it was reasonable to conclude Cheney was referring to waterboarding, since it has been a widely debated interrogation technique that uses water to subject a suspect to the fear of drowning.
U.S. interrogation methods have been the focus of debate since revelations of detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan and the disclosure that the CIA ran a network of secret prisons outside the United States. Numerous sources have confirmed the CIA used waterboarding in its interrogation of alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other "high-value" prisoners.
Some lawmakers have said they think waterboarding is illegal under detainee legislation approved last month, but the Bush administration has declined to say what techniques it considers off-limits.
Asked Friday about Cheney's Tuesday remarks, President Bush said: "This country doesn't torture. We're not going to torture."
Human-rights and legal experts said Friday that even if Snow's version of Cheney's remarks is correct, Cheney's comments are troubling because dunking a terrorism suspect in water as part of an interrogation would be more physically dangerous than waterboarding. The tactic also would be illegal under U.S. and international laws, they said.
Former CIA general counsel Jeffrey Smith said Cheney's comments were "irresponsible" and send a signal to U.S. interrogators that "the people at the top want you to get rough."
"It's clear that the vice president didn't mean a friendly swim at the country club," Smith said.
Cheney's wife also weighed in Friday, saying her husband's radio remarks had been misinterpreted.
"That is a mighty house you are building on top of that molehill," Lynne Cheney said during an appearance on CNN's "The Situation Room."
"A mighty mountain. This is complete distortion. He didn't say anything of the kind."
Material from McClatchy Newspapers is included in this report.Footnote
Transcript of Cheney's radio interview: www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/10/20061024-7.html
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