In an interview last night with ABC News, John Kiriakou — the CIA official who headed the team that interrogated al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah — said that Zubaydah was waterboarded, but defended those actions as having prevented “maybe dozens” of planned attacks and “probably saved lives.”
But despite his vigorous defense of his past conduct, Kiriakou says he now views what he did as torture and says that he would not recommend those tactics going forward. “We don’t need enhanced techniques to get that nugget of information,” he said in an interview with Matt Lauer this morning on The Today Show.
Lauer asked Kiriakou where the permission was given to carry out torture. “Was the White House involved in that decision?” Lauer asked. “Absolutely,” Kiriakou said, adding:
This isn’t something done willy nilly. It’s not something that an agency officer just wakes up in the morning and decides he’s going to carry out an enhanced technique on a prisoner. This was a policy made at the White House, with concurrence from the National Security Council and Justice Department.
Lauer then referenced an earlier interview he did with President Bush, in which Bush said he was assured by the Justice Department “we were not torturing.” “I disagree,” Kiriakou said. Watch it:
As evidence increasingly builds for the argument that CIA interrogators carried out illegal acts of torture, the New York Sun reports that President Bush may soon decide to issue pardons:
With talk of a special prosecutor again in the air and the looming prospect of a Democrat taking over the White House, CIA officials involved in prisoner interrogations and the disputed handling of videotapes of those sessions may seek the only ironclad assurance against any criminal prosecution: a presidential pardon. [...]
“I think there’s a real possibility one of President Bush’s last acts very well might be granting immunity to certain CIA employees,” a defense attorney who has defended military personnel accused of prisoner abuse, Frank Spinner, said. “I think it depends in part on the election.”
UPDATE: Carpetbagger has more.
UPDATE: Larry Johnson writes, “The media is woefully ignorant on the subject of waterboarding and torture. Consider the coverage of former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, who is telling his story as an interrogator of Abu Zubaydah and insisting that waterboarding is an effective technique. ABC and CNN are repeating this absurd propaganda. However, if you read the transcript of his interview some key points are obscured in the media propaganda push:”
* Kiriakou never witnessed the waterboarding. It was carried out by another group of individuals (nfi).
* None of the information provided by Zubaydah concerned threats inside the United States.