Hayden on waterboarding
Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA, walked a fine line this past Sunday on the question of whether waterboarding is torture. His message seemed to be, “I know it’s wrong. I’m proud I stopped it. It may be torture. But in this charged partisan environment, I’m not going to say that explicitly.” Check it out:
WALLACE: One of the concerns about the memos is the lengths to which the Justice Department went to justify some of the techniques.
I want to put up a 2002 memo that defended waterboarding. “Although the waterboard constitutes a threat of immediate death, prolonged mental harm must nonetheless result to violate the statutory prohibition on infliction of severe mental pain or suffering.”
Question: Are you satisfied that waterboarding is not torture?
HAYDEN: I’m satisfied that the Justice Department, in a series of opinions — ’02, ’03, ’05 — said that it was not. Now…
WALLACE: Well, we know that.
HAYDEN: But keep in mind, waterboarding had not been using since the spring of 2003. Waterboarding was one of the techniques that I took off the table formally and officially when I became director and reshaped the program.
WALLACE: Because you thought it was torture?
HAYDEN: No. I reshaped the program because the legal landscape had changed, the operational landscape had changed, and we knew more about Al Qaeda, all right, and the sense of threat under which we were operating had changed.
HAYDEN: I never — I never committed the agency to using waterboarding, and I’ve been asked this question before. I had to make my own tough decisions. I thank God I didn’t have to make the kinds of decisions that my predecessors had to make in 2002 and 2003.