By Michael Mckeand
George Bush has claimed that information obtained from terrorists through the interrogation method of ‘water-boarding‘ saved British lives. In his memoirs he claims that the controversial technique, which simulates drowning, helped to break up plots on Canary Wharf and Heathrow airport.
Bush confirmed his actions in an interview last night with The Times newspaper. He explained how he authorised the use of water-boarding to extract information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. When asked if he had by the interviewer, he responded: “Damn right!”.
Bush said: “Three people were waterboarded and I believe that decision saved lives.”
In his book, ‘Decision Points’, the former president explains how the interrogation method helped break up plots in London as well as on US diplomatic facilities abroad and also on multiple targets across the U.S. He also defends his actions by claiming that water-boarding is not torture but is in fact one of a number of “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Nonetheless, the method was banned by President Obama who does regard it as torture.
Bush refuses to accept this definition. In an interview with NBC’s Today Programme, he said: “The lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the anti-torture act. I’m not a lawyer. But you gotta trust the judgment of people around you, and I do.”
When asked about allegations that lawyers were pressurised into giving the president the answer he wanted to hear, Bush directed people to read the book. An identical answer was given when Matt Lauer from NBC asked if it would be legal for another country to water-board a U.S soldier.
The technique was first approved for Abu Zubaydah, an al-Qaida figure arrested in Pakistan in 2002. He was suspected of involvement in a plot to attack Los Angeles International airport.
Bush writes “His understanding of Islam was that he had to resist interrogation only up to a certain point. Waterboarding was the technique that allowed him to reach that threshold, fulfil his religious duty, and then co-operate.”
Bush also admitted that water-boarding would have been used on others if the right people were captured. “Had we captured more al-Qaida operatives with significant intelligence value” he says, “I would have used the programme for them as well.”
The claim that Water-boarding prevented attacks on London though has been challenged by Kim Howells, the former chair of the Commons intelligence and security committee. Talking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, he said “we’re not convinced that waterboarding produced information which was instrumental in preventing these plots coming to fruition and murdering people”. Instead, Howells believes that Bush was simply trying to “justify what he did to the world”.
In the same programme, former shadow home secretary David Davis shared similar beliefs. He said that torture does not work. “People under torture tell you what you want to hear,” he said. “You’ll get the wrong information and … apart from being immoral, apart from destroying our standing in the world, and apart from undermining the way of life we’re trying to defend, it actually doesn’t deliver.”
The British Government have long rejected the use of water-boarding, considering it a form of torture.
In a speech last month, chief of MI6 John Sawers insisted that MI6 had nothing to do whatsoever with torture which he described as “illegal and abhorrent”.