At his confirmation hearing on Thursday, President Barack Obama’s nominee for CIA director refused to state whether or not waterboarding was a form of torture.
When pressed by Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, John Brennan said the simulated drowning technique should be banned. However, he repeatedly declined to label the practice torture.
“The Attorney General has referred to waterboarding as torture, many people have referred to it as torture,” Brennan said. “As you well know, the term torture has a lot of legal and political implications. It is something that should have been banned long ago. It never should have taken place in my view, and therefore if I were to go to the CIA it would never in fact be brought back.”
“Do you have a personal opinion as to whether waterboarding is torture?” Levin asked.
“I have a personal opinion that waterboarding is reprehensible and is something that should not be done,” Brennan responded. “I am not a lawyer, senator. I cannot address that question.”
As evidence that its legality was unclear, he noted the Bush administration had authored legal memos that justified the use of waterboarding and other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” against suspected terrorists. Upon taking office in 2009, Obama issued an executive order prohibiting government officials from employing the interrogation practices outlined in the Bush-era memos.
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