Lieberman says some waterboarding OK
By PETER URBAN
Article Last Updated: 02/15/2008 01:39:42 AM EST
WASHINGTON â€” Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman reluctantly acknowledged Thursday that he does not believe waterboarding is torture, but believes the interrogation technique should be available only under the most extreme circumstances. Lieberman was one of 45 senators who voted Wednesday in opposition to a bill that would limit the CIA to the 19 interrogation techniques outlined in the Army field manual. That manual prohibits waterboarding, a method where detainees typically are strapped to a bench and have water poured into their mouth and nose making them feel as if they will drown.
The Senate passed the measure.
“We are at war,” Lieberman said. “I know enough from public statements made by Osama bin Laden and others as well as classified information I see to know the terrorists are actively planning, plotting to attack us again. I want our government to be able to gather information again within both the law and Geneva Convention.”
In the worst case scenario â€” when there is an imminent threat of a nuclear attack on American soil â€” Lieberman said that the president should be able to certify the use of waterboarding on a detainee suspected of knowing vital details of the plot.
“You want to be able to use emergency tech to try to get the information out of that person,” Lieberman said. Of course, Lieberman believes such authority has limits. He does not believe the president could authorize having hot coals pressed on someone’s flesh to obtain that information.
The difference, he said, is that waterboarding is mostly psychological and there is no permanent physical damage. “It is not like putting burning coals on people’s bodies. The person is in no real danger. The impact is psychological,” Lieberman said. Lieberman said that his position on waterboarding differs from that of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who he has endorsed as a presidential candidate. As a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam, McCain was tortured. McCain, he said, believes waterboarding is torture.
Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who voted for the ban, also introduced legislation Wednesday to reform the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to restore habeus corpus rights for detainees and ban torture. This month, Dodd bluntly described waterboarding as torture. “Let me be clear: there is no such thing as simulated drowning. When a person is strapped to a board and water is poured into their mouth and nose with no way to get air, that is drowning; that is torture,” he said.
CIA Director Michael Hayden recently acknowledged that the CIA has used waterboarding against three prisoners. He prohibited its use in CIA interrogations in 2006; it has not been used since 2003, he said.
On Thursday, Steven G. Bradbury, acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, told the House subcommittee on the Constitution that laws and other limits enacted since three terrorism suspects were waterboarded have eliminated the technique from what is now legally allowed.
Vice President Dick Cheney defended the use of tougher interrogation methods last week during a speech before the Conservative Political Action Convention and the Pennsylvania State Victory Committee. “It’s a tougher program for a very few tougher customers,” Cheney said. “The program is run by highly trained professionals who understand their obligations under the law. And the program has uncovered a wealth of information that has foiled attacks against the United States.”
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who supported the waterboarding prohibition, said Wednesday that the nightmare scenario threat was a specious argument because the Constitution grants the president the right to act when the country is in immediate peril.
“If he so chooses, as commander in chief, to authorize activities other than what the Army Field Manual allows, then the president would be accountable directly to the American people under the circumstances with which he invoked that article II authority,” Nelson said.
For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
In other news, MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann declaims president Bush a fascist guilty of terrorism.