(CNSNews.com) - Retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, host of Fox News’ “War Stories,” told CNSNews.com that he both underwent waterboarding and subjected others to waterboarding as part of Survival, Evasion, Rescue, Escape (SERE) training in the U.S. military.
North said he underwent waterboarding in his own SERE training, and then subjected others to waterboarding when he became a SERE school instructor.
North refutes President Obama’s argument that the waterboarding done by the Central Intelligence Agency in interrogating certain high-ranking al-Qaeda prisoners was torture, and applauds former Vice President Dick Cheney for defending the CIA’s use of the technique and its results.
In April, President Obama publicly released four memos prepared by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush administration that advised the CIA on the legality of a set of enhanced interrogation techniques that the CIA wanted to use on a limited number of high-level al Qaeda detainees.
The Office of Legal Counsel determined that the techniques in question were not torture and that it was legal for the CIA to use them in the limited and controlled circumstances under which the CIA informed the Justice Department it might employ them.
All of the techniques, the memos say, were adapted from techniques used on U.S. military personnel undergoing SERE training. The toughest of the techniques, known as the “waterboard,” ultimately was used on only three al-Qaeda prisoners. These included Khalid Sheik Mohammad (KSM), mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
In a May 30, 2005 memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to the Senior Deputy General Counsel of the CIA, the Office of Legal Counsel, using information provided by the CIA, said that after KSM had been subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, he revealed information that allowed a 9/11-style attack on Los Angeles to be thwarted.
“Your office has informed us that the CIA believes that ‘intelligence acquired from these interrogations has been a key reason why al-Qaeda has failed to launch a spectacular attack in the West since 11 September 2001,’” says the memo.
“You have informed us that the interrogation of KSM--once enhanced techniques were employed--led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ‘Second Wave,’ ‘to use East Asian operative(s) to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles,” says the memo.
In April, a CIA spokesman confirmed to CNSNews.com that the CIA stands by the factual assertions that the Justice Department attributed to the CIA in this May 30, 2005 memo.
In an interview last week about his book “American Heroes: In the Fight Against Radical Islam,” Oliver North told CNSNews.com that not only had he been waterboarded during his own SERE training, but also that he had subjected others to waterboarding as a SERE school instructor.
“I’ve been waterboarded, I used to waterboard people,” North said.
Asked if he went through SERE training, North said, “I did, and I was a SERE instructor. So, I’ve waterboarded people.”
“None of us thought it was torture,” said North. “We all knew it was very difficult, certainly, very uncomfortable.”
“Right,” said North, when asked if he was personally waterboarded. “And I did it to others.”
North said he believed that the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques worked and applauded former Vice President Dick Cheney for defending the CIA’s use of them.
“Thank God, Dick Cheney has stood up to defend what they’ve done, and make it known to people that those enhanced interrogation techniques--that we now know what they are--were never regarded to be torture until this administration came into town,” said North.
North was interviewed for an upcoming edition of CNSNews.com's “Online with Terry Jeffrey.”
Transcript of Oliver North on waterboarding:
Oliver North: Thank God, Dick Cheney’s stood up to defend what they’ve done, and make it known to people that those enhanced interrogation techniques--that we now know what they are—were never regarded to be torture until this administration came into town. I’ve been waterboarded, I used to waterboard people as a --
Terry Jeffrey: (interrupting) Did you go through SERE training?
North: I did, and I was a SERE instructor. So, I’ve waterboarded people.
Jeffrey: So this was routine?
North: This was--Terry, none of us thought it was torture. We all knew it was very difficult, certainly, very uncomfortable. But we also knew something that every American taken hostage by these people knows. Most of them are worth more alive than dead. And until we revealed what we were doing and those enhanced interrogation techniques, they worked.
Jeffrey: Ollie, you personally underwent waterboarding in your training as a U.S. Marine--
Jeffrey: --somewhere along the line?
North: And I did it to others, Terry.
Jeffrey: And you did it to others. So, you don’t think it is an intrinsically evil act--
Jeffrey: --to pour water over someone’s face?
North: But I am concerned that I am liable to get sued by some of my former students. (Laughter.)
Jeffrey: Well, the statute of limitations might have run out.
North: I hope.