CIA nominee John Brennan refused to say whether he believes the controversial practice of waterboarding constitutes torture, insisting he is not a legal scholar and therefore cannot answer the question.
"I have a personal opinion that waterboarding is reprehensible and should not be done," Brennan told Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), when asked whether he personally believes it is torture. "And again, I am not a lawyer, Senator, and I can't address that question."
As Brennan pointed out, however, the position of the Obama administration is that waterboarding is torture; both President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder have made clear that they believe it is.
But when Levin asked Brennan if he personally agrees with that position, the nominee declined to take a position:
LEVIN: Well, you've read opinions as to whether or not waterboarding is torture. And I'm just asking, do you accept those opinions of the attorney general? That's my question.
BRENNAN: Senator, I've read a lot of legal opinions. I read an Office of Legal Counsel opinion from the previous administration that said waterboarding could be used. So from the standpoint of that, I can't point to a single legal document on the issue. But as far as I'm concerned, waterboarding is something that never should have been employed, and as far as I'm concerned, never will be if I have anything to do with it.
LEVIN: Is waterboarding banned by the Geneva Conventions?
BRENNAN: I believe the attorney general also has said it's contrary and in contravention of the Geneva Convention. Again, I'm not a lawyer or a legal scholar to make the determination as to what's in violation of an international convention.