- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2008

The president’s top lawyer at the Justice Department today said that the controversial interrogation technique known as “waterboarding” has not been considered a legal method since 2005, in the most forthcoming remarks on the subject to date by the Bush administration.

Steven G. Bradbury, acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, did not say explicitly say that waterboarding is illegal or rule out its use in the future, but he did say it is not currently authorized.

“There has been no determination by the Justice Department that the use of waterboarding, under any circumstances, would be lawful under current law,” Mr. Bradbury said during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

Mr. Bradbury advises the president on the extent of his wartime powers, and his office has been at the center of the debate over how to lawfully handle suspected terrorists.

His comments came one week after CIA Director Michael Hayden confirmed for the first time publicly that the government has used waterboarding, which is generally known as strapping a detainee to a board, covering his or her mouth with cloth, and pouring water down their throat to simulate drowning.

Mr. Hayden said that three suspected terrorists, including the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, were waterboarded between 2002 and 2003, but that the technique has not been used since.

A day later the White House defended the use of waterboarding, saying that as it was practiced by U.S. intelligence officials it did not amount to torture.

Senate Democrats, however, have demanded a government investigation into the matter to determine whether laws forbidding torture were broken.

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