Cheney ‘approved’ waterboarding
Reports say US vice-president and other senior officials approved harsh interrogations.
Participants were said to be members of a National Security Council’s Principals Committee, a senior group of advisors to the president Bush.
Condoleezza Rice, formerly national security adviser now US secretary of state, Donald Rumsfeld, the former US defence secretary, Colin Powell, who was secretary of state, George Tenet, the former CIA director and John Ashcroft, the former US attorney-general also reportedly attended the meetings.
It was unclear which officials attended which meetings.
Al Jazeera contacted the White House for a reaction, but it declined to comment.
CIA officers would demonstrate some of the tactics, or at least detail how they worked, the reports said.
The meetings approved specific interrogation techniques to be used on specific prisoners.
The group agreed that waterboarding should be used on Abu Zubaydah, a senior al-Qaeda suspect detained in Pakistan in 2002, according to ABC news.
The CIA has confirmed that Abu Zubaydah was subjected to the interrogation technique.
International human rights groups have repeatedly condemned the Bush administration’s use of harsh interrogation techniques.
Variations include pouring water over face covered with cloth or cellophane, or dunking headfirst into water
Induces reflexive choking, gagging and feelings of suffocation
Dates back to the Spanish Inquisition and was used in Central and South America 30 years ago
Bush denies US uses torture but has vetoed a congressional bill outlawing the practice
Edward Kennedy, a Democratic senator, criticised “yet another astonishing disclosure about the Bush administration and its use of torture”.
“Who would have thought that in the United States of America in the 21st century, the top officials of the executive branch would routinely gather in the White House to approve torture?” Kennedy said in a statement.
The American Civil Liberties Union called on congress to investigate the claims.
“With each new revelation, it is beginning to look like the torture operation was managed and directed out of the White House,” Caroline Fredrickson, the ACLU’s legislative director, said.
Bush has said that the US does not use torture, but last month he vetoed legislation passed by congress that would have banned the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques.
“Because the danger remains, we need to ensure our intelligence officials have all the tools they need to stop the terrorists,” Bush had said, adding the vetoed legislation “would diminish these vital tools”.
Michael Hayden, director of the CIA, told congress in February that government interrogators used waterboarding on three suspects captured after the September 11 attacks.