Negroponte Confirms Use of Waterboarding

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January 28, 2008 5:30 p.m.

It’s no secret that after 9/11, the administration authorized the use of waterboarding, and that the technique was used on a number of detainees in 2002 and reportedly stopped in 2003. But the administration has never explicitly admitted that.

In fact, when Dick Cheney, seduced into loose talk by a friendly interviewer, confirmed that “a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives,” the White House furiously backpedaled, and Tony Snow did his best to proclaim that “a dunk in water” had not been a reference to waterboarding, but just “a dunk in the water.”

So John Negroponte is really letting the horse out of the barn here. In an interview with National Journal, the former director of national intelligence casually mentions the use of waterboarding:

Q: When we as a nation are still debating the morality and efficacy of “harsh” interrogation techniques that much of the world consider torture, and indefinite detainment that lies outside the rule of international law, can the United States really win the “war of ideas” that President Bush insists is crucial to this conflict?

Negroponte: I get concerned that we’re too retrospective and tend to look in the rearview mirror too often at things that happened four or even six years ago. We’ve taken steps to address the issue of interrogations, for instance, and waterboarding has not been used in years. It wasn’t used when I was director of national intelligence, nor even for a few years before that. We’ve also taken significant steps to improve Guantanamo. People will tell you now that it is a world-class detention facility. But if you want to highlight and accent the negative, you can resurface these issues constantly to keep them alive. I would rather focus on what we need to do going forward.

Somehow I think that his upbeat, glass-is-half-full message will get lost here.

And expect for White House spokeswoman Dana Perino to do her best to put the horse back in the barn tomorrow.

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