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Obama affirms position that waterboarding is torture, defends banning technique

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] reaffirmed [press conference transcript] Wednesday his position that the controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding amounts to torture [JURIST news archives] and defended his decision to ban use of the technique [JURIST report]. Speaking at a press conference marking his first 100 days in office, Obama again said that the US has "rejected the false choice between our security and our ideals by closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and banning torture without exception," affirming a statement from his inaugural address [text; JURIST report]. In response to a question about waterboarding, Obama said:

What I've said - and I will repeat - is that waterboarding violates our ideals and our values. I do believe that it is torture. I don't think that's just my opinion; that's the opinion of many who've examined the topic. And that's why I put an end to these practices. I am absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do - not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees who were subjected to this treatment, but because we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are.
Obama also said that memos that former vice president Dick Cheney and others have urged [Washington Post report] him to release do not prove that the American people are safer as a result of the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.

Last week, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] testified [webcast] in front of a House Appropriations subcommittee [official website] that he is willing to release as much information as possible [JURIST report] in regards to interrogation techniques used on Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees. Holder said that the recent release of four CIA interrogation memos [JURIST report] was not being done selectively to advance a political agenda. Since the release of the memos outlining the legal rationale for interrogation techniques, pressure has mounted on the Obama administration to investigate and prosecute responsible Bush administration officials. Earlier this week, Democratic members of the US House Judiciary Committee [official website] sent a letter to Holder [JURIST report] urging him to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations of torture [press release and letter text] against Bush administration officials, and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official profile] reiterated his calls for a non-partisan truth commission [JURIST report] to investigate Bush administration officials responsible for authorizing certain interrogation techniques during an interview [transcript, PDF] with CBS.

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