Intelligence Nominee Won’t Say if Waterboarding Is Torture


SIOBHAN GORMAN
The Wall Street Journal
January 23, 2009

President Barack Obama’s nominee as director of national intelligence declined to say Thursday whether waterboarding is torture, marking a fissure with attorney general nominee Eric Holder, who said that it is.

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“I’m hesitating to set a standard here which will put in jeopardy some of the dedicated intelligence officers who checked to see that what they were doing was legal and then did what they were told to do,” said Dennis C. Blair, nominated for the intelligence post, at his Senate confirmation hearing. He did declare, however, that “there will be no waterboarding on my watch. There will be no torture on my watch.”

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the intelligence panel that held the hearing, said Mr. Blair’s answer was “troubling” in comparison to Mr. Holder’s clear statement last week.

Overall, senators expressed support for Mr. Blair, a retired admiral who spent 34 years in the Navy, and he is expected to be confirmed.

In a statement of solidarity with intelligence officers, Mr. Blair also said he didn’t intend to “reopen the cases” of CIA officers who took part in an interrogation program that had been authorized by senior officials.

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