LONDON (AP) — One of the United States’ top judges said in an interview broadcast in Britain on Tuesday that interrogators can inflict pain to obtain critical information about an imminent terrorist threat.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that aggressive interrogation could be appropriate to learn where a bomb was hidden shortly before it was set to explode or to discover the plans or whereabouts of a terrorist group.
“It seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say you couldn’t, I don’t know, stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face. It would be absurd to say you couldn’t do that,” Scalia told British Broadcasting Radio Corp.
U.S. interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, have been the subject of growing debate in the United States, and could play a role in the military trials of six men charged in connection with the Sept. 11, attacks. The issue also could find its way to the Supreme Court.
From BBC News (February 5, 2008):
The CIA has for the first time publicly admitted using the controversial method of “waterboarding” on terror suspects.
CIA head Michael Hayden told Congress it had only been used on three people, and not for the past five years.
He said the technique had been used on high-profile al-Qaeda detainees including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Waterboarding, condemned as torture by rights groups and many governments, is an interrogation method that puts the the detainee in fear of drowning.
Congress has been debating banning the use of waterboarding by the CIA.
President Bush has threatened to veto such a bill.
From The Guardian:
Congress today moved closer to outlawing waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA, as the ban remained intact after debate on a major intelligence policy bill.
But limits on waterboarding by US spy agencies remain unlikely to become law, thanks to political manoeuvring from Republicans and Democrats alike as well as certain opposition from George Bush.
The CIA’s use of waterboarding on al-Qaida suspects has fuelled international controversy for years, with UN officials, human rights groups, and congressional Democrats condemning the tactic as tantamount to torture.
The US military’s plans to seek the death penalty for several suspects in the 9/11 attacks also may falter if evidence obtained through waterboarding is challenged.
The waterboarding ban that Democrats added to the intelligence bill prohibits US spy agencies, including the CIA, from using any interrogation method not listed in the army field manual. McCain helped pass a similar restriction for the Pentagon in 2006.
“To be for it in the McCain bill but opposed to it [for intelligence agencies] makes no sense,” Democratic senator Dick Durbin said yesterday.
The US attorney general, Michael Mukasey, has repeatedly declined to call waterboarding torture, but the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, suggested to the New Yorker last month that the tactic was torturous.
From the Washington Post (February 7, 2007):
[Mike] McConnell […] explained to the Senate intelligence committee that he didn’t really tell the New Yorker that waterboarding is torture.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked him whether his quoted statements indicated that “for yourself, if used, waterboarding would, in fact, constitute torture. Is that correct?”
“No, ma’am, it’s not correct,” said McConnell, who had talked to reporter Lawrence Wright, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Looming Tower.” “The discussion was about something entirely different. It was a personal discussion about when I grew up and what I was doing as a youngster,” which was “being a water-safety instructor,” he said.
Wright, McConnell said, asked ” ‘Well, what about when water goes up your nose?’ And I said, ‘That would be torture.’ I said, ‘It would be very painful for me.’ Then it turned into a discussion of waterboarding.”
So the quote “‘Whether it’s torture by anyone else’s definition, for me it would be torture,’ is not correct?” Feinstein asked.
“I said it,” McConnell acknowledged, but what “I was talking about was water going into my nose, given the context of swimming and teaching people to swim. So it’s out of context,” he explained.
Wright sharply disagreed.
“No, we weren’t talking about swimming,” he told us yesterday, “we were talking about his military training and I asked him if waterboarding was part of that training. The context was how awful it would be if it were done to him,” Wright said. It was then that McConnell “brought up his experience as a water-safety instructor.”
Mr. McConnell, in the words of the profound Vinnie Barbarino of Welcome Back, Kotter: Up your nose with a rubber hose!