In book, Bush strongly defends use of waterboarding

Thu Nov 4, 2010 3:32pm EDT
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By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When then-President George W. Bush was asked to approve a tough interrogation technique known as waterboarding on September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he wasted little time in deciding.

"Damn right," he said.

Bush's approval of waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning condemned by human rights activists as torture, to try to wrench information from captured al Qaeda operatives was among the most controversial decisions he made during eight years in the White House.

In his memoir, "Decision Points," Bush strongly defends the use of waterboarding as critical to his efforts to prevent a repeat of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. He says waterboarding was limited to three detainees and led to intelligence breakthroughs that thwarted attacks.

The book, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, is to hit bookstores on Tuesday. He writes that his ability to prevent another September 11 attack on U.S. soil was "my most meaningful accomplishment."

Waterboarding, which human rights groups contend is illegal under the Geneva Conventions, was banned by Bush's successor, President Barack Obama, shortly after taking office in 2009. Interrogators are now required to follow interrogation guidelines laid out in the U.S. Army Field Manual.

During Bush's presidency, the United States came under international criticism for its treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan and foreign terrorism suspects held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Bush writes that waterboarding was first approved for Abu Zubaydah, an al Qaeda figure arrested in Pakistan in 2002 who was suspected of involvement in a plot to attack Los Angeles International Airport.   Continued...