The White House Take On Waterboarding Is Laughable

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Just take a moment to digest this press briefing with WH spokesperson Dana Perino yesterday. A reporter asked whether the questioning of Abu Zubaydah was in line with “the interrogation program approved by President Bush.”

Perino responded by saying, “All have been done within the legal framework that was set out after September 11th…. The entire program has been legal….", adding "The United States does not torture"


Q: But when you have a former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, now saying that waterboarding was used — since you’re saying the interrogations were legal; he’s saying on the record now, waterboarding was used in at least one case. You’re saying waterboarding is legal?

PERINO: Ed, I’m saying I’m not commenting on any specific technique. I’m not commenting on that gentleman’s characteristics of any possible technique. I’ve given you a very general statement about interrogations being legal, limited and —

Q: You just said it was legal.

PERINO: I’m sorry?

Q: You said it was within the legal framework.


Q: Everything that was done.


Q: So waterboarding is legal.

PERINO: I’m not commenting on any specific techniques.

Got that?  The U.S. government engaged in waterboarding — that’s a documented fact.  And Perino says the U.S. governments interrogation techniques were legal.  But she doesn’t want connect the dots, as obvious as they are.  She can’t bring herself to actually say that "waterboarding is legal".

And why not?  Well, obviously because that would be a political and international scandal.

But the reason Perino won’t comment on waterboarding is because — according to Perino — terrorists might be listening to the White House press briefing.

Q: Dana, can I come back to the waterboarding question? I understand the rationale for not wanting to discuss specific techniques — it’s to not tip off America’s enemies, to help them train as to how to evade what questioning they get. After a retired team member is on nationwide television explaining exactly what was done, is there an al Qaeda operative anywhere who doesn’t know that this might be in the arsenal?

PERINO: Obviously, al Qaeda listens closely to everything that we do and say, and that’s something that we should be — that we should keep in mind…. [M]atters of sensitivity should remain classified and not spoken about publicly.

This is mindnumbingly stupid.  So stupid, in fact, that I don’t see how Perino herself can believe it.  Waterboarding is on the news constantly; it’s discussed by the presidential candidates; they’re having congressional hearings over the subject, and so on.  Hasn’t that horse already left the barn?  Perino is working on the assumption that al Qaeda terrorists get their information exclusively from White House press briefings. 

Remarkably dense.