FBI General Counsel: Waterboarding Is ‘Clearly Not Permissible In The United States’

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni if “painful stress positions, threatening detainees with dogs, forced nudity, mock execution and waterboarding” were “abusive” and “illegal.” In asking his question, Durbin cited judge advocate generals who told him that the “techniques are illegal and violate Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.”

Caproni first tried to deflect the question to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, saying that “the issue of legality or non-legality is not mine to reach.” But pushed further by Durbin, she stated unequivocally that “they are all abusive”:

DURBIN: I asked you that question. Are they abusive, illegal or violate Geneva Conventions?

CAPRONI: Oh, I’m sorry. I was running them all together, Senator. I would say they are all abusive.

Durbin then asked her if she considered the techniques torture. Again, Caproni tried to dodge the question, saying “it’s not within my pay grade” to make that determination. Eventually, following more pressure from Durbin, Caproni relented, admitting that “these techniques are clearly not permissible in the United States”:

DURBIN: Do you consider them torture?

CAPRONI: Again, torture has a legal definition, and that’s what OLC has passed on. And it’s not — it’s not within my pay grade to overrule OLC.

DURBIN: And how could it be within the pay grade of those below you to understand whether what they’re doing is torture or not?

CAPRONI: Again, from — the FBI agents’ responsibilities was, one, not to participate. These techniques are clearly not permissible in the United States. We train our agents well. They would have known that none of those techniques were they permitted to participate in.

While a report released last month by the Justice Department’s inspector general praised the FBI for “its conduct and professionalism” during interrogations, the bureau has been criticized as having “done nothing to end the abuse” perpetrated by other agencies.