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In an interview that aired on Monday night with NBC News host Matt Lauer, former President George W. Bush spoke out on the controversial interrogation technique of waterboarding, which put his administration under fire for its use on detained terror suspects during his years in the White House.
Critics describe waterboarding as torture and dispute the legalities of its practice; however, Bush said in the one-on-one broadcast on the eve of the release of his new memoir, Decision Points, that he has no regrets and would sign-off on using the tactic again.
The Washington Post reports:
[Lauer] asked Bush why he believed that waterboarding was legal, a topic of significant dispute.
“Because the lawyer said it was legal,” Bush replied. “He said it did not fall within the anti-torture act. I’m not a lawyer. But you gotta trust the judgment of people around you, and I do.”
He has been widely criticized for directing the lawyers to reach that conclusion, on which there is no legal consensus.
“Using those techniques saved lives,” Bush said. “My job was to protect America. And I did.”
Pressed on whether U.S. soldiers could be exposed to waterboarding because Americans have deployed it, Bush grew irritated and defensive. “All I ask is that people read the book,” he said, adding that he would make the same decision again today.
HuffPost’s Nick Wing reported last week:
That’s what former president George W. Bush told CIA officials when they came to ask him for permission to waterboard alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, according to a Washington Post report on the 43rd president’s forthcoming book, “Decision Points.”
Mohammed supposedly had knowledge of brewing terrorist plots against the United States, and Bush had little reservation about using the practice of simulated drowning on the detainee to extract them.
“I’d do it again to save lives,” Bush, who refused to call the interrogation technique “torture” during his presidency, said at a forum earlier this year. He repeats this willingness to use the procedure and maintains that it isn’t torture in his book, according to the Post.
President Obama and the current Justice Department have tightened their view on waterboarding, characterizing it as an act of torture that is prohibited by international stricture, and, while the Post reports that there may someday be legal repercussions for those who directly authorized torture, the Obama administration has shown little interest in pursuing action against Bush and others, such as Dick Cheney, who have openly supported and admitted using the interrogation tactic.