Bush admits waterboarding approval

US president says senior officials okayed harsh interrogation techniques.

    Rights groups have condemned 
    waterboarding [Reuters] 
    The CIA has admitted using waterboarding on Mohammed, reportedly al-Qaeda's second-in-command, who later confessed to planning the September 11 2001 attacks on New York.
     
    US media reported on Thursday that Cheney, the US vice-president, and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, attended meetings at the White House where specific interrogation techniques were approved.
     
    "I think it's very important for the American people to understand who Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was. He was the person who ordered the suicide attack - I mean, the 9/11 attacks," Bush told ABC.
     
    "And back then, there was all kinds of concerns about people saying, 'Well, the administration is not connecting the dots.'"
     
    Legal advice
     
    Waterboarding

    Variations include pouring water over face covered with cloth or cellophane, or dunking headfirst into water

    Induces reflexive choking, gagging and feelings of suffocation

    Dates back to the Spanish Inquisition and was u

    sed in Central and South America 30 years ago


    Bush denies US uses torture but has vetoed a congressional bill outlawing the practice

    The officials took care to insulate Bush from the meetings, where waterboarding - which simulates drowning - sleep deprivation and slaps and pushes were approved, according to the reports.
     
    Donald Rumsfeld, the former US defence secretary, Colin Powell, who was secretary of state, George Tenet, the former CIA director, and John Ashcroft, the former attorney-general, also reportedly attended the meetings.
     
    Between 2002 and 2003, the US justice department issued several memos from its Office of Legal Counsel that justified using the interrogation tactics, including ones that critics call torture.
     
    Many of those memos have since been overruled.
     
    In March this year, Bush vetoed legislation that would have banned intelligence agencies using waterboarding and other techniques.
     
    International human rights groups have repeatedly condemned the Bush administration's use of harsh interrogation techniques.
     
    Olympic boycott
     
    Bush also spoke out on the Olympics, after protests led to the re-routing of the Olympic torch relay in San Francisco on Wednesday.
     
    The US leader said his planned trip to the Olympics in China was a message of support for US athletes and not a statement on the politics of the host country.
     
    "I don't view the Olympics as a political event," Bush said. "I view it as a sporting event."
     
    Human right activists have called on world leaders not to attend the Beijing Games in August unless China improves its record on rights, particularly in Tibet.
     
    Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, US presidential hopefuls, have all said they would not attend the Games opening ceremony.
     
    The White House has not yet said whether Bush will attend the ceremony.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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