President George W. Bush admits for the first time in his new memoir that he personally approved the use of waterboarding, a technique in which an interrogator simulates drowning on a suspect. The method, which most describe as torture, has since been banned by the Justice Department.
In his book, “Decision Points,” Bush asserts that he was asked by the Central Intelligence Agency whether he would support the agency’s waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind.
“Damn right,” Bush says that he said.
The Washington Post’s R. Jeffrey Smith avers that a source close to Bush says he would have done the same thing again “to save lives,” though there’s been no proof produced that the torture technique has.
“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,” Smith notes.
In February, Vice president Dick Cheney said that he personally “was a big supporter of waterboarding.”
Bush’s admission could have international consequences for human rights.
“President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. have both said waterboarding is an act of torture proscribed by international law, a viewpoint supported by a handful of Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill and opposed by other Republicans,” Smith notes. “But the Obama administration has not sought to punish former Bush administration officials for approving it.
“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,” he adds. “That provision, known as universal jurisdiction, has been cited in the past by prosecutors in Spain and Belgium to justify investigations of acts by foreign officials. But no such trials have occurred in foreign courts.”
Bush’s new book is to be released next Tuesday.