Ex-CIA Interrogator: We Tortured Because The White House Told Us To

This post, written by Faiz Shakir, originally appeared on Think Progress

In an interview last night with ABC News, John Kiriakou -- the CIA official who headed the team that interrogated al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah -- said that Zubaydah was waterboarded, but defended those actions as having prevented "maybe dozens" of planned attacks and "probably saved lives."

But despite his vigorous defense of his past conduct, Kiriakou says he now views what he did as torture and says that he would not recommend those tactics going forward. "We don't need enhanced techniques to get that nugget of information," he said in an interview with Matt Lauer this morning on The Today Show.

Lauer asked Kiriakou where the permission was given to carry out torture. "Was the White House involved in that decision?" Lauer asked. "Absolutely," Kiriakou said, adding:
This isn't something done willy nilly. It's not something that an agency officer just wakes up in the morning and decides he's going to carry out an enhanced technique on a prisoner. This was a policy made at the White House, with concurrence from the National Security Council and Justice Department.
Lauer then referenced an earlier interview he did with President Bush, in which Bush said he was assured by the Justice Department "we were not torturing." "I disagree," Kiriakou said. Watch it the video to your right.

As evidence increasingly builds for the argument that CIA interrogators carried out illegal acts of torture, the New York Sun reports that President Bush may soon decide to issue pardons:
With talk of a special prosecutor again in the air and the looming prospect of a Democrat taking over the White House, CIA officials involved in prisoner interrogations and the disputed handling of videotapes of those sessions may seek the only ironclad assurance against any criminal prosecution: a presidential pardon. [...]

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