Former Attorney General John Ashcroft sat in front of the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, answering question after question concerning the use of interrogation techniques at Guantanomo Bay. Ashcroft made it clear that he believes waterboarding is within the law. He told the committee that the Bush administration asked him as Attorney General to define the limits to aggressive questioning of terrorism suspects, and pouring water over a person’s breathing passages to simulate drowning was found to be within those limits. Ashcroft believes waterboarding served a beneficial purpose.
"They were very valuable," said Ashcroft, "I think the director of the CIA, George Tenet, indicated that the value of the information received from the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, and I don’t know whether was saying waterboarding or not, but assume that he was for a moment; the value of that information exceeded the value of information that was received from virtually all other sources."
Ashcroft said the Bush administration is eager to do everything possible to get information from terrorist suspects but it wants it done within the law. Ashcroft believes aggressive interrogation techniques have helped protect the country.
"I believe that there have been disrupted plots. I believe there have been numbers of them," said Ashcroft, "I believe the evidence of that is good, so that something we have done is right enough to have disrupted those plots. The fact that you’re doing some things right doesn’t mean that you’re doing everything right. So, I think it’s appropriate for us always to be looking at what we’re doing."
Ashcroft refused to tell the committee many of the details about conversations he had with President Bush about proper ways to force suspected terrorists to talk. He said those communications are privileged because they’re talks between a lawyer and a client.
Ashcroft was President Bush’s Attorney General for four years after losing his Missouri Senate seat.
(attached is an excerpt of Ashcroft’s testimony with answers to questions from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) and Representative Steve Chabot (R-Ohio). The excerpt runs 8:06)