The director of the Central Intelligence Agency has confirmed that his agency used the extreme interrogation technique known as waterboarding on three terrorism suspects nearly five years ago. In testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, Michael Hayden urged lawmakers not to place restrictions on the interrogation methods available to U.S. intelligence agencies, as VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.
Director Hayden's testimony was the most detailed description to date of the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques.
"In the life of the CIA detention program, we have held fewer than 100 people," he said. "Fewer than a third of those people have had any techniques, enhanced techniques, used against them in the CIA program."
He confirmed that among those enhanced techniques used was waterboarding - which induces the feeling of imminent drowning, and which critics say amounts to torture.
"Waterboarding has been used on only three detainees," he said.
He said those three detainees are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - one of the architects of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington, Abu Zubaydah - who is believed to have been a top al-Qaida strategist, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri - who is believed to have played a key role in the bombing of the USS Cole. All three are being held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Hayden said waterboarding was used against the three detainees nearly five years ago because of circumstances at the time, including the belief that additional attacks against the United States were imminent.
Hayden defended the CIA's use of extreme interrogation techniques as lawful, and urged lawmakers not to impose restrictions on such methods.
Congress is considering legislation that would restrict the CIA to using only the interrogation techniques authorized by the U.S. Army's field manual, which does not include waterboarding.