Bush: I OK’d waterboarding KSM

Zachary Roth
Senior National Affairs Reporter
The Upshot

President George W. Bush acknowledges in his new memoir that he personally approved the use of waterboarding against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Washington Post reports.

In "Decision Points," due out Tuesday, the former president writes that he was asked by the CIA for permission to waterboard Mohammed (dubbed KSM), who was suspected of having information about additional terrorist plots.  "Damn right," Bush says he responded.  He adds that he would make the same call again, in order to save lives.

President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have both affirmed that waterboarding -- holding a person's blindfolded face under running water, to simulate the sensation of drowning -- constitutes torture.  In theory, Bush's admission could expose the former president to prosecution.  But the Obama administration has signaled that it has little appetite for going after Bush administration policymakers over the issue.

"Waterboarding is broadly seen by legal experts around the world as torture, and it is universally prosecutable as a crime," Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch told the Post.  "The fact that none of us expect any serious consequences from this admission is what is most interesting."

The CIA has said it no longer uses waterboarding.

Mohammed, an alleged key plotter in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was captured in Pakistan in 2003.  He has been charged with war crimes by a U.S. military commission, and faces the death penalty if convicted.

(Undated photo of a Guantanamo prisoner whom the Arabic-language site www.muslm.net identifies as Mohammed: AP via www.muslm.net)