President Barack Obama reaffirmed April 29 his position that the controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding amounts to torture and defended his decision to ban use of the technique. Speaking at a press conference marking his first 100 days in office, Obama again said that the US has “rejected the false choice between our security and our ideals by closing the detention center at Guantánamo Bay and banning torture without exception,” affirming a statement from his inaugural address.
In response to a question about waterboarding, Obama said:
What I’ve said—and I will repeat—is that waterboarding violates our ideals and our values. I do believe that it is torture. I don’t think that’s just my opinion; that’s the opinion of many who’ve examined the topic. And that’s why I put an end to these practices. I am absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do—not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees who were subjected to this treatment, but because we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are.
Obama also said that memos that former vice president Dick Cheney and others have urged him to release do not prove that the American people are safer as a result of the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.
Last week, US Attorney General Eric Holder testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee that he is willing to release as much information as possible regarding interrogation techniques used on Guántanamo Bay detainees. Holder said that the recent release of four CIA interrogation memos was not being done selectively to advance a political agenda. Since the release of the memos outlining the legal rationale for interrogation techniques, pressure has mounted on the Obama administration to investigate and prosecute responsible Bush administration officials. Earlier this week, Democratic members of the US House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Holder urging him to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations of torture against Bush administration officials, and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reiterated his calls for a non-partisan truth commission to investigate Bush administration officials responsible for authorizing certain interrogation techniques during an interview with CBS. (Jurist, April 30; WP, April 25)
See our last posts on Gitmo and the torture scandal.