Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 23, 2009


La Times - Retired Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the president's nominee to serve as the next director of national intelligence, testified that the government would withhold specifics from any new interrogation document for fear that "we not turn our manual into a training manual for our adversaries." In testimony during his confirmation hearing, Blair declined to say whether he thought the interrogation technique known as waterboarding -- in which a prisoner is doused with water to create the sensation of drowning -- was torture.
When pressed on the issue, Blair said he did not want to "put in jeopardy" CIA officers who had employed the method. Asked whether CIA interrogations had been effective, Blair said, "I'll have to look into that more closely." Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a member of the intelligence committee, said he found Blair's responses "troubling." . . . "There will be no waterboarding on my watch," Blair said. "No torture on my watch.". . .

Obama's orders did not ban the controversial CIA practice of "extraordinary rendition," in which prisoners are transferred by the CIA from one country to another. Those transfers can continue, according to the orders, as long as prisoners are not taken to other nations "to face torture" or as part of a CIA effort to circumvent international laws on detainee treatment. "There are some renditions that are, in fact, justifiable, defensible," said the senior Obama administration official. "There's not going to be rendition to any country that engages in torture."


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