FBI nominee James Comey stated on Tuesday that he believes that waterboarding is illegal and amounts to torture. The answer came during Comey’s confirmation hearing after he was nominated to be the next director of the FBI.
Comey is a former deputy general. He held the title from 2003 until 2005. He told senators at his confirmation hearing that he made his views on waterboarding known to the Bush administration.
Comey stated that he lost his battle to stop the CIA from using interrogation techniques like waterboarding and sleep deprivation to gain information from enemy combatants. The FBI director nominee added:
“When I first learned about waterboarding when I became deputy attorney general, my reaction as a citizen and a leader was ‘This is torture.’ It’s still what I think.”
The announcement by James Comey was a switch from the position he took in 2005 when he oversaw the government’s legal opinions on waterboarding.
But Comey stated in his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the government’s statute on the issue was vague at the time, complicating his ability and that of other government lawyers to determine whether or not waterboarding was legal. He added:
“Even though I as a person, as a father, as a leader thought, ‘That’s torture — We shouldn’t be doing that kind of thing,’ I discovered that it’s actually a much harder question to interpret this 1994 statute, which I found very vague.”
While Comey did not say during the hearing why his opinion changed on waterboarding, one of his aides later explained that the change was for several reasons, including the fact that President Obama has banned its use. Other reasons were that the legal opinions supporting its use as an interrogation technique were withdrawn, and Congress passed an act to ban it in 2005.
Comey’s nomination has so far been less contentious than previous nominees to President Obama’s second-term cabinet.