Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

US nominee tells senators waterboarding is torture

US nominee tells senators waterboarding is torture

Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder Jr. forcefully broke from the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies Thursday, declaring that waterboarding is torture and pledging to prosecute some Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. courts.
It was the latest signal that President-elect Barack Obama will chart a new course in combatting terrorism. As recently as last week, Vice President Dick Cheney defended waterboarding, a harsh interrogation tactic that simulates drowning, saying it provided valuable intelligence.
The CIA has used the tactic on at least three terrorism suspects, included alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In past Senate hearings, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, frustrated senators by repeatedly sidestepping questions about waterboarding.
It was the first topic discussed at Holder's confirmation hearing to be the chief U.S. law enforcement officer, and he made an unambiguous statement about its nature: "Waterboarding is torture."
The declaration sent a wave of approval through the public viewing gallery, where protesters, dressed in orange prison scrubs like those worn by detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, held signs calling for an end to torture.
Obama has described Guantanamo Bay as a "sad chapter in American history." He plans to issue an executive order calling for the prison to be closed.
Holder echoed that stance Thursday but said shuttering the prison would be difficult and would take time. Many detainees could be transferred to other countries, he said, and some could be charged in U.S. courts. That is a contentious proposal because many oppose the idea of bringing terrorism suspects onto U.S. soil.
"There are possibly many other people who are not going to be able to be tried but who nevertheless are dangerous to this country," Holder said. "We're going to have to try to figure out what we do with them."
Holder promised to be an independent attorney general, telling lawmakers that he did not believe the attorney general's job was to serve as the president's lawyer _ a frequent criticism of Gonzales' tenure under President George W. Bush. He also pledged to repair the damage at a Justice Department where Bush administration appointees used political benchmarks when making hiring decisions.
"I want to assure you and the American people that I will be an independent attorney general," Holder said. I will be the people's lawyer."
No Republican has announced plans to oppose Holder's nomination, but the party sees the confirmation hearing as the best early forum for showing that the minority party is still relevant despite a Democratic sweep in the November elections.
After Holder issued his opinion on waterboarding, the questioning turned toward the 2001 pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. Holder, who was the No. 2 official at the Justice Department at the time, told President Bill Clinton that he was neutral leaning toward favoring the pardon. On Thursday, Holder repeated a later conclusion, saying he regrets not studying the pardon more.
But Holder said he learned from the mistake and would be a better attorney general because of the experience.


Updated : 2021-05-09 16:29 GMT+08:00