The CIA has banned the controversial interrogation technique known as “water boarding”, which simulates drowning to persuade suspects to talk, ABC News reported on Friday.
ABC said it had been told by former and current CIA officials that CIA director Michael Hayden banned the practice sometime last year at the recommendation of his deputy, Steve Kappes, and with the approval of the White House.
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield it was the agency’s policy not to comment on interrogation techniques other than to emphasise that they have been, and continue to be, lawful.
But a US official, speaking on condition he not be identified, told Reuters: “It would be wrong to assume programmes of the past moved into the future unchanged.”
President George W Bush signed an executive order in July requiring the CIA interrogators to comply with the Geneva Conventions against torture – five years after he exempted al Qaeda and Taleban members from the Geneva provisions.
Many human rights groups consider water boarding – which involves pouring water over a suspect’s mouth and nose to stimulate a drowning reflex – to be torture.
Bush, who insists the United States does not use torture, has faced pressure at home and abroad over interrogation techniques used on suspected militants held at secret CIA prisons and other locations, including the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.