WASHINGTON, Sept 15 (Reuters) The CIA has banned the controversial interrogation technique known as ''water boarding,'' which simulates drowning to persuade suspects to talk, ABC News reported.
ABC said yesterday it had been told by former and current CIA officials that CIA director Michael Hayden banned the practice sometime last year at the recommendation of his deputy, Steve Kappes, and with the approval of the White House.
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said it was the agency's policy not to comment on interrogation techniques other than to emphasize that they have been, and continue to be, lawful.
But a US official, speaking on condition he not be identified, told Reuters: ''It would be wrong to assume programs of the past moved into the future unchanged.'' President George W Bush signed an executive order in July requiring the CIA interrogators to comply with the Geneva Conventions against torture -- five years after he exempted al Qaeda and Taliban members from the Geneva provisions.
Many human rights groups consider water boarding -- which involves pouring water over a suspect's mouth and nose to stimulate a drowning reflex -- to be torture.
Bush, who insists the United States does not use torture, has faced pressure at home and abroad over interrogation techniques used on suspected militants held at secret CIA prisons and other locations, including the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Last year, Vice President Dick Cheney drew fire when it appeared to many people that he endorsed the use of water boarding as an interrogation technique.
The vice president was asked by a conservative radio host from Fargo, North Dakota: ''Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?'' ''Well, it's a no-brainer for me,'' Cheney replied, but later said he wasn't referring to any specific interrogation technique.
The US military banned simulated drownings and seven other abusive interrogation techniques, such as forced nudity, hooding and mock executions, one year ago this month.
However, CIA interrogations are governed by a different set of rules.
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