Republicans Say Justice Dept. Memo Confirms Waterboarding Thwarted Al Qaeda

April 22, 2009 - 7:01 PM
A Justice Department memo released by the Obama administration last week indicating that the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" – including waterboarding – apparently helped the U.S. government thwart a terrorist attack in Los Angeles, confirms that waterboarding has helped undermine al Qaeda, Republican lawmakers told CNSNews.com on Wednesday.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (Photo courtesy of Leahy’s Web site)

(CNSNews.com) - A Justice Department memo released by the Obama administration last week indicating that the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” – including waterboarding – apparently helped the U.S. government thwart a terrorist attack in Los Angeles, confirms that waterboarding has helped undermine al Qaeda, Republican lawmakers told CNSNews.com on Wednesday.
 
But Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which  provides oversight for the Justice Department, told CNSNews.com he had not yet read the memo on waterboarding, and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) declined to offer an opinion on whether the CIA’s use of waterboarding was justified as an interrogation technique.
 
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) told CNSNews.com on Tuesday that it stands by the assertion made in the May 30, 2005, Justice Department memo that the use of “enhanced techniques” of interrogation on al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) – including the use of waterboarding – caused him to reveal information that allowed the U.S. government to stop a planned attack on Los Angeles.
 
According to the previously classified memo, the thwarted attack – which KSM called the “Second Wave”— planned “‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.”
 
When asked if the U.S. government did the right thing by waterboarding Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told CNSNews.com: “I think enhanced interrogation techniques saved a lot of American lives.”

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), center, and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), right. (AP Photo)

Waterboarding should “absolutely” be an option in the future, added Coburn.
 
“What I can tell you is that those who say that America is not safer because of the interrogation that has occurred of these terrorists, I think [they] are not telling the truth,” House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said, when asked if waterboarding the al Qaeda leader was the right decision.
 
“There is a decision to be made,” said Cantor. “If you expect you can get valuable information from terrorists, you weigh that against the risk of not doing that and how many American lives are going to be in harm’s way. That has to be the calculation on the ground.”
 
Cantor added that most people in the intelligence community “do not support the direction [that] this administration and president have gone,” and he said that in the future the calculation should be made in favor of saving lives.
 
“The calculation should always be – if we have a terrorist who we can interrogate and save human lives, then we ought to make that decision on that basis, period,” said Cantor when asked if waterboarding should be employed as an interrogation technique.
 
In reference to the CIA’s waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said, “The information that the enhanced interrogation techniques [produced] were very useful and it did give information and contributed to the capture of Al Qaeda.”
 
But Bond also said he thinks the administration’s disclosures about waterboarding has hampered its effectiveness as an interrogation technique. 
 
“Waterboarding is off the table now,” said Bond.” Now that the enhanced techniques have been totally disclosed, they are totally ineffective. We have wiped out the ability of our CIA interrogators to get the information we need from high-value detainees.”
 
Leahy declined to answer any questions about the memo.
 
“I haven’t read it,” he told CNSNews.com asked about the waterboarding memo. “I haven’t read the memo. I haven’t read it yet. Let me read the memo, and I will be glad to answer your question.”
 
House Minority Leader John Boehner also declined to answer whether the CIA made the right decision to waterboard the al Qaeda leader. “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask them [the CIA],” said Boehner.