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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States used waterboarding in terrorism interrogations but no longer does, a former U.S. spy chief said in the Bush administration's most explicit confirmation of the technique's use.
U.S. officials have been reluctant to acknowledge the CIA's use of the simulated drowning technique, which human rights groups call an illegal form of torture.
The remarks by former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte in an interview with National Journal magazine come as senators are expected on Wednesday to grill Attorney General Michael Mukasey on a promised review of the legality of interrogation methods.
Asked by the magazine if debate over U.S. counterterrorism techniques was hampering its effort in a "war of ideas," Negroponte said, "We've taken steps to address the issue of interrogations, for instance, and waterboarding has not been used in years."
Negroponte served as the first director of national intelligence, a position created by President George W. Bush in the wake of the September 11 attacks, from 2005 to 2007. He is now deputy secretary of state. He spoke in an interview published in the National Journal's January 25 issue.
"It (waterboarding) wasn't used when I was director of national intelligence, nor even a few years before that," he said. "I get concerned that we're too retrospective and tend to look in the rearview mirror too often at things that happened four or even six years ago."
Negroponte's remarks appear to confirm earlier reports that the CIA discontinued waterboarding in 2003, after using it on three "high-value" detainees. Vice President Dick Cheney once suggested waterboarding was "an important tool" used to interrogate September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Bush has regularly insisted that the United States does not torture but has declined to discuss what interrogation techniques are used. The CIA declined comment on Negroponte's remarks.