U.S. may have waterboarded detainee before getting legal approval.

In March 2002, detainee Abu Zubaydah, described as a “first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques,” underwent waterboarding while in U.S. custody. In a hearing today, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) noted that Zubaydah’s interrogation occurred months before the August 2002 “Bybee memo” approved the interrogation tactics. Salon reports:

But during questioning, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., pointed out that the abuse of Zubaydah had reportedly begun weeks, if not months, earlier. “Did you offer legal approval of interrogation methods used at that time … prior to August 2002?”

I have no recollection of doing that at all,” Ashcroft responded. He added that he did not remember anyone else at the Justice Department doing so either. He said later in the hearing that Zubaydah’s interrogation “was done without the opinion that was issued on the first of August.”

“Ashcroft’s testimony at least raises the possibility that the CIA had started abusing Zubaydah before the agency received any legal cover. This might explain why the Bush administration pushed so hard for the torture memos — the torture had already begun,” Alex Koppelman notes.