The attorney general yesterday rejected growing congressional calls for a criminal investigation of the CIA’s use of simulated drownings to extract information from its detainees, as Vice President Cheney called it a “good thing” that the CIA was able to learn what it did from those subjected to the practice.

The remarks reflected a renewed effort by the Bush administration to defend its past approval of the interrogation tactic known as waterboarding, which some lawmakers, human rights experts and international lawyers have described as illegal torture.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said Justice Department lawyers concluded that the CIA’s use of waterboarding in 2002 and 2003 was legal, and therefore the department cannot investigate whether a crime had occurred.

“That would mean that the same department that authorized the program would now consider prosecuting somebody who followed that advice,” he said.

New controversy about waterboarding has swirled in Washington since CIA Director Michael V. Hayden confirmed Tuesday that the CIA used the tactic on al-Qaeda prisoners Khalid Sheik Mohammed; Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, commonly known as Abu Zubaida; and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri at a secret detention site. In congressional testimony, he defended the treatment as necessary to obtain information about potential terrorist attacks. (MORE)


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