Gonzales: I Was ‘Aware’ Of Waterboarding

November 22, 2010 4:15 a.m.

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told TPM in an exclusive interview that he was aware of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques used against suspected terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

He wouldn’t say, however, whether he remembered when George W. Bush approved KSM’s waterboarding. Bush recalled in his book that he told the CIA “Damn right” when asked whether to waterboard the man accused of planning Sept. 11.“What I can say is that, yes I was aware of the techniques, I did have knowledge, and I know that a number of lawyers worked to look to see whether it could be administered in a way that was consistent with the anti-torture statute and guidance was given by the Department of Justice while I was in the White House about how these techniques could be implemented to gather important information, in a dangerous period for our nation, to gather information from the enemy that would be in America’s favor,” Gonzales told me.

I asked if Gonzales remembered when Bush told the CIA that they could waterboard KSM.

“Yeah, I’m not going to comment on that, I’m going to save that for the book,” Gonzales said.

Republicans have criticized Eric Holder and the Justice Department for their policy on holding terrorist trials in civilian court. Gonzales said the latest debate showed that nothing should be taken off the table completely but that military commissions could be more effective.

“I’ve got a lot to say about [military v. civilian trials in the book], but we recognized way back in 2001 the difficulties and challenges that existed in trying an enemy combatant in a criminal court,” Gonzales said. “I’m not suggesting that we took it off the table completely. To the contrary, we always wanted that as an option for the commander in chief in the right circumstance. But we understood that challenges that existed, and that’s why we recommended to the president and he accepted the recommendation that we set up a commission to bring some of these folks to justice.”

Gonzales, now working as a professor at Texas Tech, said the topic has come up in his class.

“In fact the last class I taught was on the disposition of captured terrorist,” Gonzales said. They have also discussed Guantanamo, the collection of intelligence, surveillance techniques, Iraq and Afghanistan, Gonzales said.

“So we’ve covered all the controversial stuff,” Gonzales added.

Read more of this interview here.

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