Romney's man on waterboarding

He says he'd look to Blackwater's Cofer Black for advice.

By Mark Benjamin
November 29, 2007 8:38PM (UTC)
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In the first presidential race in history in which waterboarding is (sadly) a debatable issue, there was a telling moment for Mitt Romney during the GOP fracas Wednesday night. Romney refused to say that waterboarding was torture and seemed to suggest that he would allow the CIA to continue to use it as an interrogation technique. But things soon got more interesting.

When CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Romney if waterboarding was torture, Romney replied, in part: "I want to make sure that what happened to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed happens to other people who are terrorists ... He went to Guantánamo and he met G.I.s and CIA interrogators. And that's just exactly how it ought to be."

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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, allegedly the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks, was reportedly subjected to waterboarding by the CIA. But what was perhaps more troubling was when Romney revealed who has his ear on the torture issue. When Romney refused to rule out the technique, he boasted: "And I get that advice from Cofer Black, who is a person who was responsible for counterterrorism in the CIA for some 35 years."

Indeed, Black is the former head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center. He was in charge there after 9/11, when the agency set up its network of secret prisons where "enhanced" interrogation techniques -- including waterboarding -- were allegedly carried out. Black is the guy who famously (or infamously) told Congress in September 2002, "There was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves come off."

Oh, and in case you were wondering about Romney's judgment in asking for advice, Black is also vice chairman of Blackwater USA.


Mark Benjamin

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

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