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Originally published Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 10:06 PM

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Bush memoir says he OK'd waterboarding

Human-rights experts have long pressed the administration of former President George W. Bush for details of who bore ultimate responsibility for approving the simulated drownings of CIA detainees, a practice that many international legal experts say was illicit torture.

The Washington Post

Human-rights experts have long pressed the administration of former President George W. Bush for details of who bore ultimate responsibility for approving the simulated drownings of CIA detainees, a practice that many international legal experts say was illicit torture.

In a memoir due out Tuesday, Bush makes clear that he personally approved the use of that coercive technique, known as waterboarding, against suspected Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, an admission some human-rights experts say could one day have legal consequences for him.

In his book, "Decision Points," Bush recounts being asked by the CIA whether it could proceed with waterboarding Mohammed, who Bush said was suspected of knowing about pending terrorist plots against the United States. Bush writes that his reply was "Damn right" and states that he would make the same decision again to save lives, according to someone close to Bush who has read the book.

Bush previously had acknowledged endorsing what he described as the CIA's "enhanced" interrogation techniques — a term meant to encompass irregular, coercive methods — after Justice Department officials and other top aides assured him they were legal.

The Justice Department later repudiated some of the underlying legal analysis for the CIA effort. But Bush told an interviewer a week before leaving the White House that "I firmly reject the word 'torture,' " and he restates that view in the book. Reuters and The New York Times first published accounts of the book's contents Tuesday. The 26-year-old United Nations Convention Against Torture requires that all parties to it seek to enforce its provisions, even for acts committed elsewhere.

That provision, universal jurisdiction, has been cited by prosecutors in Spain and Belgium to justify investigations of acts by foreign officials. But no such trials have occurred in foreign courts.

Cherif Boussiani, an emeritus law professor at DePaul University who co-chaired the U.N. experts committee that drafted the torture convention, said Bush's admission could theoretically expose him to prosecution. But he also said Bush must have presumed he would have the government's backing in any confrontation with others' courts.

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