In an interview with Chip Reid on CBS’s Washington Unplugged yesterday, former White House press secretary Dana Perino attacked the Obama administration for its consideration of a truth commission to investigate President Bush’s torture program. An investigation would be a “political witch hunt,” Perino said, claiming the interrogation program was actually “safe, effective, and legal.”
When asked if she thinks waterboarding is torture, Perino tried to dodge the question, claiming she had simply never weighed in on the matter:
PERINO: What more is there to investigate? Unless they are on a political witch hunt. … Look, none of us want to talk about interrogation techniques. They are unpleasant for a reason –
Q: Well, they are not just unpleasant. Do you believe waterboarding is torture?
PERINO: I have never answered that question because I don’t know what I would have done in that situation, if I had to protect thousands of lives.
“Well you’re leaving open the possibility that it is [torture],” Reid noted. Watch it:
Except Perino has weighed in on the issue, and all indications are that she has said that waterboarding is not torture. When repeatedly pressed by reporters on whether the Bush administration tortured, Perino consistently and robotically responded, “We do not torture.” She uttered the phrase until the very end of her tenure, well after the CIA publicly admitted in February 2008 to waterboarding three detainees:
– “Let me just make sure it’s clear, and I’ll say it on the record one more time, that it has never been the policy of this President or this administration to torture.” [1/14/09]
– “We did not torture.” [11/18/08]
– “The United States has not, is not torturing any detainees in the global war on terror.” [4/23/08]
Even after former CIA officer John Kiriakou revealed in December 2007 that waterboarding was used, Perino responded, “But I can say that any interrogations have been legal.”
It’s unclear why Perino is trying to dodge the question of whether waterboarding is torture given that she has clearly rendered her verdict on the matter multiple times. Perhaps she now realizes she wasn’t being truthful when she was flacking for Bush’s torture program.
Contradicting claims by conservatives that the Bush torture program yielded valuable information, McClatchy reports: “The CIA inspector general in 2004 found that there was no conclusive proof that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any ‘specific imminent attacks,’ according to recently declassified Justice Department memos.”