GOP Senator Makes Torture Joke During CIA Confirmation Hearing

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) cracked a joke about a Bush-era torture techniques during the confirmation hearing for John Brennan to become Director of the CIA, eliciting uncomfortable laughter and surprise from his Senate colleagues.

Thursday’s hearings covered the gamut of the CIA’s responsibilities in gathering intelligence and the methods the agency employs. Along with the release of the movie Zero Dark Thirty, the nomination of Brennan has re-opened debates surrounding the effectiveness of torture and what role the practice may have played in providing the intelligence necessary to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011. When it was Burr’s turn to question Brennan, he opted to lead with a joke about the technique known as waterboarding:

BURR: I’ll be brief. You’re on your fourth glass of water and I don’t want to be accused of waterboarding you.


While multiple experts and former Bush officials have denied that waterboarding elicited intelligence information that saved lives, conservatives maintain that the torture technique is a viable option that should be restored. The treatment, where drowning is simulated, is among the range of procedures euphemistically referred to as “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The Obama administration has banned waterboarding — along with sleep deprivation, blaring music at all hours, and other forms of provoking extreme discomfort.