Author of torture memos says CIA went too far in interrogations

Liz Goodwin
The Upshot

The Justice Department attorney who authorized the use of waterboarding after the September 11 attacks testified that some of the CIA's interrogation methods went too far.

Jay S. Bybee, former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, told the House Judiciary Committee in May that waterboarding was only permitted if interrogators didn't engage in "substantial repetitions" of the technique, according to the L.A. Times. (You can read his testimony, released by the committee on Thursday, here.)

That means the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times and Abu Zubaydah more than 80 times was most likely illegal, though President Obama has said CIA agents who waterboarded detainees will not be prosecuted.

Waterboarding is a form of torture used to make a person feel like he is drowning. Bybee authorized its use in his 2002 memo written with another former DOJ attorney, John Yoo, arguing it was not torture.

The Times also lists the other CIA interrogation techniques Bybee says were not authorized:

diapering a detainee, forcing a detainee to defecate on himself, forcing a detainee to wear blackout goggles, extended solitary confinement or isolation, hanging a detainee from ceiling hooks, daily beatings, spraying cold water on a detainee, and subjecting a detainee to high-volume music or noise.

Bybee still defended his authorization of waterboarding, even as he acknowledged that interrogators misused the technique.

“We took a muscular view of presidential authority,” Bybee said. “We were offering a bottom line to a client who wanted to know what he could do and what he couldn’t do. I wasn’t running a debating society, and I wasn’t running a law school.”