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Ashcroft: Waterboarding ‘Consistently’ Seen As Legal, Refuses To Say Use On U.S. Troops Is ‘Unacceptable’

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"Ashcroft: Waterboarding ‘Consistently’ Seen As Legal, Refuses To Say Use On U.S. Troops Is ‘Unacceptable’"

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During a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee today, former Attorney General John Ashcroft falsely claimed that waterboarding has “consistently” been defined as “not torture” and refused to agree that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques — including waterboarding — on captured U.S. soldiers is “unacceptable” or “criminal.”

REP. MAXINE WATERS: Do you think that if these techniques were used on American soldiers that they would be totally unacceptable and even criminal? [...]

ASHCROFT: My job, as Attorney General, was to try and elicit from the experts and the best people in the Department definitions that comported with the statues enacted by the Congress and the Constitution of the United States. And those statutes have consistently been interpreted so as to say, by the definitions that, waterboarding, as described in the CIA’s request, is not torture.

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In fact, waterboarding “has been prosecuted in U.S. courts since the late 1800s and was regarded by every U.S. administration before this one as torture.”

Further, Ashcroft’s non-answer with regard to the torture of captured American service men and women is reminiscent of State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger’s refusal to condemn “the use of water boarding on an American national by a foreign intelligence service.” His comments are also in line with the sentiments of Guantanamo Bay’s legal adviser, Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann, who refused to answer whether or not the use of waterboarding by Iranians on U.S. service men and women would constitute torture.

In the words of former JAG officer Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Williams, Ashcroft and his fellow travelers have “sold all the soldiers and sailors at risk of capture and subsequent torture down the river.”

Transcript:

WATERS: Based on all of that information, those descriptions, your understandings, and the conclusions, if in fact these pactices were applied to American soldiers do you think that conclusion would be a good one or do you think that if these techniques were used on American soldiers that they would be totally unacceptable and even criminal?

ASHCROFT: My subscription to the memos and my belief that the law provides the basis for these memos persisted even in the presence of my son serving two tours of duty overseas in the Gulf area as a member of our armed forces. I know that his training included a number of activities that I think would be very, very difficult for any of us to sustain, including having to deal with evil chemistry and the like.

But my job, as Attorney General, was to try and elicit from the experts and the best people in the Department definitions that comported with the statues enacted by the Congress and the Constitution of the United States. And those statutes have consistently been interpreted so as to say, by the definitions, that waterboarding, as described in the CIA’s request, is not torture.

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