CIA Director Michael Hayden told lawmakers Thursday that waterboarding is a useful technique but might not be “lawful under current statute.” Hayden said his agency used waterboarding because of “misshaped and misformed” direction from Washington.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey used similar reasoning when he said he would not investigate what many consider to be torture of suspects.

Hayden is no stranger to skirting legality when it comes to President Bush’s pet programs. As NSA director, he oversaw the eavesdropping project that stirred so much controversy. That role earned him a transfer to the CIA, where he has tried to explain the agency’s torture of prisoners as well as the destruction of evidence of that torture. Hayden appears to be the president’s go-to guy for the defense of unethical programs.


Strapping a person to a surface, covering their face with cloth and pouring water on their face to imitate the sensation of drowning could be used if “an unlawful combatant is possessing information that would help us prevent catastrophic loss of life of Americans or their allies,” said Hayden.

“In my own view, the view of my lawyers and the Department of Justice, it is not certain that that technique would be considered lawful under current statute,” he told the House Intelligence Committee after publicly disclosing that the CIA had used waterboarding on three of the enemy combatants.

He explained that the method was used because of “mis-shaped and misformed” political discussion about waterboarding.

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