WASHINGTON — The man tapped to oversee U.S. intelligence promised Congress on Thursday there would be no torture and no warrantless wiretapping on his watch.
Retired Adm. Dennis Blair said the jail at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, must be closed because it is "a damaging symbol to the world."
"It is a rallying cry for terrorist recruitment and harmful to our national security, so closing it is important for our national security," Blair said in prepared remarks.
President Barack Obama is expected to order the detention's center closure Thursday. It could take as long as a year for it to be emptied of prisoners, however.
Blair said one of his main responsibilities will be rebuilding the American people's trust in the nation's intelligence agencies. Eight years of a secretive Bush administration authorized harsh interrogations, the secret kidnapping and transferring of suspected terrorists, and a domestic surveillance program that operated without the knowledge of a secret court created 30 years ago to oversee just such activities.
"The intelligence agencies of the United States must respect the privacy and civil liberties of the American people, and they must adhere to the rule of law," Blair said.
Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder told Congress last week he considers waterboarding torture. Waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, was employed against three CIA prisoners in 2002 and 2003 during questioning. It was part of the CIA's "enhanced" interrogation program approved by the Bush White House after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden told reporters Thursday that the CIA's interrogation program worked.
Blair said he believes strongly that "torture is not moral, legal or effective."
Blair will likely oversee the end of enhanced interrogations. President Obama is also expected to sign an executive order Thursday setting a single humane standard for the treatment of all U.S. detainees. It will limit the CIA to the U.S. military's interrogation methods but will leave latitude for additional CIA methods that comply with humane treatment, a congressional official told The Associated Press on Wednesday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the Obama administration had not yet released the order.
Blair promised "transparency and accountability," and said he intended to communicate as much as possible with the public about the secret work of the agencies.
"I will work to rebuild a relationship of trust with the American people," he said.
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