In a radio interview on Tuesday Vice President Dick Cheney acknowledged that the U.S. has been using waterboarding techniques in interrogations of suspected terrorists.
According to the interview transcript, released by the White House yesterday Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio in Fargo, N.D. told Cheney that listeners had asked him to "let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives."
"Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?" Hennen asked. "I do agree," replied Cheney. "And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation."
Hennen then asked Cheney, "Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" The Vice President's response:
"It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president 'for torture.' We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in. We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that."
Waterboarding simulates drowning by repeated dunking or running water over cloth or cellophane placed over the nose and mouth. It has been recognized by national and international law as "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" and just last month the DoD released revised guidelines on interrogation techniques (see page 97) that explicitly prohibit the use of waterboarding by U.S. military personnel.
So if Cheney sees the technique as part of a robust interrogation program then who exactly does he see doing it? A spokeswoman denied that Cheney endorsed the practice by U.S. interrogators which basically spells out that yes, it's happening, and we're paying non-military personnel (read: contractors and the like) to do it.