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White House denies Cheney endorsed ‘water boarding’

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WASHINGTON  — The White House said Friday that Vice President Dick Cheney was not talking about a torture technique known as ‘‘water boarding’’ when he said dunking terrorism suspects in water during questioning was a ‘‘no-brainer.’’
    Human rights groups complained that Cheney’s comments amounted to an endorsement of water boarding, in which the victim believes he is about to drown.
    President Bush, asked about Cheney’s comments, said, ‘‘This country doesn’t torture. We’re not going to torture.’’ He spoke at an Oval Office meeting Friday with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
    Earlier, White House press secretary Tony Snow denied that Cheney had endorsed water boarding.
    ‘‘You know as a matter of common sense that the vice president of the United States is not going to be talking about water boarding. Never would, never does, never will,’’ Snow said. ‘‘You think Dick Cheney’s going to slip up on something like this? No, come on.’’
    In an interview Tuesday with WDAY of Fargo, N.D., Cheney was asked if ‘‘a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives.’’
    The vice president replied, ‘‘Well, it’s a no-brainer for me but for a while there I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don’t torture. That’s not what we’re involved in.’’
    Peppered with questions about the remarks, Snow said Cheney did not interpret the question as referring to water boarding and the vice president did not make any comments about water boarding. He said the question put to Cheney was loosely worded.
    The administration has repeatedly refused to say which techniques they believe are permitted under the new law. Asked to define a dunk in water, Snow said, ‘‘It’s a dunk in the water.’’
    Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement, ‘‘What’s really a no-brainer is that no U.S. official, much less a vice president, should champion torture. Vice President Cheney’s advocacy of water boarding sets a new human rights low at a time when human rights is already scraping the bottom of the Bush administration barrel.’’
    Human Rights Watch said Cheney’s remarks were ‘‘the Bush administration’s first clear endorsement’’ of water boarding.
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