Senate Dems want criminal probe in waterboarding cases

WASHINGTON (AP) Senate Democrats demanded a criminal investigation into waterboarding by government interrogators Tuesday after the Bush administration acknowledged for the first time that the tactic was used on three terrorism suspects.

In congressional testimony Tuesday, CIA Director Michael Hayden became the first administration official to publicly acknowledge the agency used waterboarding on detainees following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"We used it against these three detainees because of the circumstances at the time," Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "There was the belief that additional catastrophic attacks against the homeland were imminent. And we had limited knowledge about al-Qaeda and its workings. Those two realities have changed."

Hayden said that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - the purported mastermind of the 9/11 attacks - and Abu Zubayda and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were subject to the harsh interrogations in 2002 and 2003.

After the admission by Hayden, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called on Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate whether those interrogations amounted to torture.

Mukasey recently told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he could render an opinion on whether waterboarding is torture only if he knew the circumstances of each situation.

Waterboarding induces a feeling of imminent drowning. The subject is restrained with mouth covered and water poured over the face.

"Waterboarding taken to its extreme could be death. You could drown someone," Mike McConnell, director of National Intelligence, told the panel.

He said waterboarding remains a technique in the CIA's arsenal but would require the president's consent and attorney general's legal approval.

Congress may restrict the CIA to using only interrogation techniques that are approved by the military, which do not include waterboarding and other harsh measures. Hayden said the CIA will comply with whatever rules are laid down, but warned that such restrictions will endanger the country.

"If you create that box, we'll play inside the box without exception," Hayden said. "My view is that substantially increases the danger to America."

At the same hearing, McConnell said al-Qaeda is establishing cells in other countries as Osama bin Laden's organization uses Pakistan's tribal region to train for attacks in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa and the USA.

"Al-Qaeda remains the pre-eminent threat against the United States," he said.

McConnell said that fewer than 100 al-Qaeda terrorists have moved from Iraq to establish cells in other countries, and the organization "may deploy resources to mount attacks outside the country."

McConnell said while the level of violence in Iraq has dropped sharply since last year, it is going to be years before Iraq is stable.

"It is not going to be over in a year. It's going to be a long time to bring it to closure," he said.

 

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