Bush under fire in Britain over waterboarding claims

10th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former US president George W. Bush on Tuesday faced a barrage over criticism in Britain over his defence of simulated drowning or "waterboarding" to interrogate terrorist suspects.

The ex-commander-in-chief claimed in his newly released memoirs that use of the technique had directly prevented terrorist attacks in Britain and the US.

Shami Chakrabarti, of human rights group Liberty, said: "After the atrocity of 9/11, the American president could have united the world against terrorism and towards the rule of law.

"Instead, President Bush led a great democracy into the swamp of lies, war and torture in freedom's name. Democracy can do better and, learning from the past, it will."

Britain's government said it continued to regard waterboarding as torture and last month the country's Secret Intelligence Service chief, John Sawers, described the use of torture as "illegal and abhorrent."

Steve Ballinger, of rights group Amnesty International, added: "George Bush is wrong to say waterboarding is justified because torture is illegal under international law."

Bush said in his book, Decision Points, that "interrogations helped break up plots to attack American diplomatic facilities abroad, Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf in London, and multiple targets in the United States."

In an interview with The Times newspaper, the former leader added: "Three people were waterboarded and I believe that decision saved lives."

Former Labour party chairman of the Commons intelligence and security committee Kim Howells expressed doubt over the ex-president's claims.

"We think waterboarding is torture and I don't believe that the British security services people had anything to do with it," he told the BBC.

"What is very, very difficult is to decide whether or not your intelligence partners have as scrupulous an attitude towards this as we believe the British intelligence services have."

Bush also said it was "damn right" that he had authorised use of the controversial method on Al-Qaeda's 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Clive Stafford Smith, of human rights group Reprieve, blamed the former leader for fanning the flames of extremism.

"By authorising torture, president Bush made the world an infinitely more dangerous place," he said. "US torture spread like a virus, from the CIA to Abu Ghraib, and became the greatest recruiting sergeant for extremism.

"A vast reservoir of goodwill towards the US following 9/11 was drained in record time."

© 2010 AFP

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