Director's Statement on Lawful Interrogation
Statement to Employees by Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, General Mike Hayden on Lawful Interrogation
February 13, 2008
In Congressional testimony last week, I confirmed publicly that
waterboarding had been used on three hardened terrorists in our
high-value interrogation program. That tactic, which has not been
employed since 2003, was deemed legal by the Department of Justice when
it was used. Beyond those two facts, I also shared with the Congress my
view of changes in the legal landscape over the past five years, and the
need to take those changes into account should waterboarding ever be
considered for use again.
My testimony attracted a fair amount of public attention and comment, not all of it accurate. Before both the Senate and the House, I emphasized that our program has operated within a strict legal framework, subject to review and oversight. Indeed, CIA has over time and at its own initiative modified the methods it has applied, in keeping with—or in anticipation of—modifications to the law.
The Agency’s decision to employ waterboarding in the wake of 9/11 was not only lawful, it reflected the circumstances of the time. In reply to a question at the Senate hearing, I said: “Very critical to those circumstances was the belief that additional catastrophic attacks against the homeland were imminent. In addition to that, my Agency and our Community writ large had limited knowledge about al-Qa’ida and its workings. Those two realities have changed.”
Two days later, at the House hearing, I was asked whether waterboarding is prohibited under current law. My response was: “It’s not a technique that I’ve asked for. It is not included in the current program, and in my own view, the view of my lawyers and the Department of Justice, it is not certain that the technique would be considered lawful under current statute.” Put bluntly, I could not—and would not—presume to prejudge the outcome of a legal assessment that has not
even been requested. It was as simple as that.
CIA’s terrorist interrogation program, lawful and effective, was born of necessity. As President Bush told the nation in September 2006, the Agency applied its methods of questioning when other techniques did not work and when a captured terrorist “had more information that could save innocent lives.” Unlike traditional law enforcement, the CIA’s chief objective in interrogations is not forensics on past events, but actionable, forward-looking intelligence.
My testimony was in accord with recent statements from the White House and Department of Justice. The Attorney General, in particular, told Congress that his Department had authorized the Agency’s use of specific interrogation methods and that there is a process in place to review the legality of any technique that might in the future be proposed for inclusion in the CIA program. As befits a Republic of laws, this vital counter-terror initiative rests on a strong legal foundation.