Holder: "Waterboarding is torture"

In his confirmation hearing, Barack Obama's nominee to become attorney general makes a clean break with the Bush administration's stance on the technique.

By Alex Koppelman

Published January 15, 2009 5:05PM (EST)

It didn't take long for Eric Holder, President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to become attorney general, to separate himself from the Bush administration. Testifying at his confirmation hearing Thursday morning, Holder made a definitive statement on one of the most controversial interrogation technqiues authorized by the outgoing administration: "Waterboarding is torture."

Prior to this decade, Holder's declaration wouldn't have been news -- his view was then settled fact in this country. After World War II, Japanese soldiers were prosecuted for waterboarding Americans, and during the Vietnam War a U.S. soldier was court-martialed for using the technique on a prisoner.

CIA Director Michael Hayden has said the intelligence agency waterboarded three suspected members of al-Qaida. In 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney denied that the practice was torture and called it "a no-brainer for me."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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