The use of waterboarding on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has been defended by Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, who said that the prison should remain open until the “war on terror” ends. (photo, from aljazeera.net)
On Monday, in an interview with US broadcaster ABC News, Mr Cheney admitted he was aware that waterboarding was used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged planner of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.
Used in interrogation, waterboarding makes a detainee feel like he is drowning.
Asked whether he thought it was appropriate, Mr Cheney replied: “I do.”
Asked if he thought, in hindsight, any of the tactics went too far, Mr Cheney said, “I don’t”.
“I was aware of the programme, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn’t do”, Mr Cheney said.
“And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it”, he added.
‘The right to capture the enemy’
Asked when Guantanamo Camp could be shut down, the out-going US vice-president told ABC : “Well, I think that that would come with the end of the war on terror.”
When the journalist asked him when that was he said “well, nobody knows”, before adding : “Nobody can specify that.”
“In previous wars, we’ve always exercised the right to capture the enemy and then hold them until the end of the conflict.
“The same basic principle ought to apply here in terms of our right to capture the enemy and hold them”, Mr Cheney said. He also indicated that in many cases the captives’ own countries did not want them back and no other nation was willing to take them.
He also said about 30 detainees who were released from Guantanamo “ended up back on the battlefield again, and we’ve encountered them a second time around. But they’ve either been killed or captured in further conflicts with our forces”.
‘Very well run’
Though the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba has been widely condemned by international human rights groups, more than 200 detainees remain there.
Barack Obama, the US president-elect, has said he wants to close the prison camp which opened in 2002 in order to hold prisoners captured by the US as part of its so-called war on terror.
Mr Cheney said, during another interview with Rush Limbaugh, a US conservative radio host, that Guantanamo “has been very well run”. He also said that Mr Obama would have a difficult time closing it.
“Once you go out and capture a bunch of terrorists, as we did in Afghanistan and elsewhere, then you’ve got to have some place to put them”, he said.
“If you bring them here to the US and put them in our local court system, then they are entitled to all kinds of rights that we extend only to American citizens. Remember, these are unlawful combatants.”