Interrogation used by CIA is torture, ex-agent says

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But simulated drowning got results, former interrogator says as Senate begins probe

Andy Sullivan, Reuters

WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday began investigating why the CIA destroyed videotapes that recorded al-Qaida suspects undergoing waterboarding, while a former interrogator said the controversial technique yielded important information but amounted to torture.

CIA Director Michael Hayden testified behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has launched one of several investigations to determine if the agency broke any laws when it destroyed the tapes in 2005.

“There are other people in the agency who know about this far better than I, and I have committed them to come on down and answer all the questions the committee might have,” Hayden said after the hearing.

Many countries, U.S. lawmakers and human rights groups have denounced the simulated drowning technique as torture. Reports of its use, as well as harsh treatment of terrorist suspects, have damaged the U.S. image around the world.

The full House of Representatives could vote as early as today to outlaw waterboarding. Drafted by negotiators for the House and Senate Intelligence committees, the measure would require U.S. interrogators to comply with the Army Field Manual, which bans interrogation methods seen as torture.

A former CIA interrogator said waterboarding has saved lives in the war against al-Qaida.

John Kiriakou, who now works in the private sector, told several U.S. news outlets that suspected al-Qaida lieutenant Abu Zubaida started cooperating after being waterboarded for less than a minute by CIA officials in 2002.

Kiriakou said he now believes waterboarding is torture.

Critics have charged that the CIA destroyed the tape of Abu Zubaida, along with that of another al-Qaida suspect, to hide illegal torture. The agency has said it destroyed the tapes in 2005 to protect the interrogators from possible retaliation.

It is believed that the CIA has not used waterboarding since 2003.

The Washington Post reported that a judge had ordered the tapes to be preserved as possible evidence in a lawsuit filed by prisoners at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba, where the United States holds captured terrorism suspects.

Hayden is scheduled to testify to the House Intelligence Committee today.