RP NOTE: AS IF IT ISN'T ALREADY.
Petraeus says torture an option for US
June 25, 2011
WASHINGTON: David Petraeus, Barack Obama's choice to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, says the US should consider using special interrogation techniques when a captive is withholding information that is immediately needed to save lives.
In the vast majority of cases, General Petraeus said, the ''humane'' questioning standards mandated by the US Army field manual were sufficient to persuade detainees to talk. But while he did not use the word torture, General Petraeus said ''there should be discussion … by policy makers and by Congress'' of something ''more than the normal techniques''.
Speaking at his confirmation hearing before the Senate intelligence committee on Thursday, General Petraeus described an example of a detainee who knew how to disarm a nuclear device set to explode under the Empire State Building. Congress might want to give the President the option of taking extraordinary measures to extract that information, he said.
The Republican senator John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, endorsed the idea. ''I look forward to working with you on this ticking time bomb scenario,'' he said. ''I think the person responsible should be the President of the United States … I do agree with you.''
The comments were noteworthy because they came from two men opposed to the interrogation techniques, including water boarding, that were used by the CIA in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Mr Obama banned the techniques when he took office.
General Petraeus, who said he opposed torture generally because ''it's the right thing to do'', expressed his preference for capturing rather than killing al-Qaeda militants, pointing out that the CIA neither held nor interrogated detainees at present.
General Petraeus argued that the US needed a place to hold people accused of terrorism, despite the President's stated intention to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
''This is a very, very serious issue for our country, and it's one that policymakers and Congress need to address on an expeditious basis,'' he said.
General Petraeus, who would become the first CIA director to arrive directly after serving as the top commander in a war, would be called upon to offer objective views of the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq. He sought to dispel concerns about having to ''grade my own work''.
''Clearly I have views on the efforts in which I have been engaged,'' he said. ''However … when I am in the situation room with the President, I will strive to represent the agency's position.''
He also said he wanted to make sure the agency was not ''totally captured'' by the war against al-Qaeda.
China, weapons proliferation and the next developments in the ''Arab Spring'' should also be intelligence priorities and cyber threats were ''of particular note''.
''I share the concerns that many hold about cyber security,'' he said.
A vote on his nomination is expected before July 4.
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