Petraeus: Congress should discuss interrogation techniques for "ticking time bomb scenario"

CIA Director nominee Gen. David Petraeus testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday,June 23, 2011, before the Senate Intelligence Committee during a hearing on his nomination.
AP Photo/Cliff Owen
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Army Gen. David Petraeus, President Obama's nominee to lead the CIA, suggested to Congress on Thursday that it should consider setting parameters for using enhanced interrogation techniques in a "ticking time bomb scenario."

At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Petraeus, currently the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, reiterated his support for adhering to the interrogation methods listed in the U.S. Army Field Manual. Mr. Obama in 2009 signed an executive order banning the use of any interrogation method, such as waterboarding, not listed in the field manual.

"Those techniques, again, do work," Petraeus said of the field manual. "It is a very rare case, in fact, where those techniques do not elicit the information that we actually are after in these cases."

The general alluded to his past assertion that the U.S. must "live our values." He said Thursday that "it bites you in the backside over time if you don't."

Still, Petraeus said there may be a "special case" in which interrogators may need to employ "more than the normal techniques."

"I think that is a special case. I think there should be discussion of that by policymakers and by Congress," he said. "I think that it should be thought out ahead of time."

Petraeus gave the example of having an individual in captivity who has placed a nuclear device under the Empire State Building.

Republican Sen. John McCain, who like Petraeus has denounced torture techniques, said he was interested in working with Petraeus on the issue.

"I'm not sure what the answer is, because I think the person who would have to be responsible would be the president of the United States," McCain said.

Petraeus agreed that in a "ticking time bomb scenario," the authorization to use certain interrogation techniques "has to come from the top."

"Something extraordinary is going to be done, and this can't be something where we are forcing low-level individuals to have to make a choice under enormous duress," he said.

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