A former CIA officer said interrogators used a simulated drowning technique on a senior al-Qaida member, and that he believes the method is torture.
Former agent John Kiriakou said in interviews, first on ABC News Monday, the technique known as waterboarding helped break senior al-Qaida suspect Abu Zubaydah in less than 35 seconds.
In response, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino Tuesday said President Bush approved a lawful program to interrogate "hardened terrorists." She said the program, announced in 2006, is safe, effective and legal. The White House has never confirmed any specific interrogation technique.
Kiriakou said the day after the waterboarding, Zubaydah agreed to cooperate and provided key intelligence that disrupted a number of attacks. Kiriakou was part of the CIA team that interrogated Zubaydah, but said he did not witness the waterboarding being done.
CIA Director Michael Hayden is to testify Tuesday to the Senate Intelligence Committee about the CIA's destruction of videotaped interrogations of Zubaydah and another senior al-Qaida captive.
Hayden told CIA employees last week that the tapes were destroyed to protect the identity of the interrogators. He said appropriate members of Congress had been informed.
News reports say the videotapes, which were made in 2002, showed severe interrogation methods being used on al-Qaida suspects Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.