Press Releases

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today urged the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Michael McConnell to provide the transcript of a recent interview with New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright. At issue is the exact conversation held between Director McConnell and Wright over the subject of waterboarding. Senator Feinstein questioned Director McConnell about this exchange during the open Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday.

          Following is the text of the letter sent by Senator Feinstein to DNI McConnell:

February 8, 2008

The Honorable J.M. McConnell
Director of National Intelligence
Washington, D.C. 20511

Dear Director McConnell:

I write to request that your office provide me with the transcript of the discussion between you and Lawrence Wright, author of the January 21, 2008 New Yorker magazine article entitled, “The Spymaster.” 

In that article, you are quoted as saying that for you, “waterboarding would be excruciating.  If I had water draining into my nose, oh God, I just can’t imagine how painful!  Whether it’s torture by anybody else’s definition, for me it would be torture.”

At the February 5, 2008 hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, you stated that the above quotation was taken out of context.  You said, “The discussion was about something entirely different.  It was a personal discussion about when I grew up and what I was doing as a youngster…. what I was talking about was water going into my nose, given the context of swimming and teaching people to swim.  So it’s out of context.”

Mr. Wright is quoted in today’s Washington Post as disagreeing with your characterization.  According to Wright, “we weren’t talking about swimming, we were talking about his military training and I asked him if waterboarding was part of that training. The context was how awful it would be if it were done to him.” According to Mr. Wright, you raised your experience as a water-safety instructor after this exchange.

As you know, I firmly believe that waterboarding is torture, and that its use under any circumstances is illegal.  Unfortunately, some disagree.  Earlier this week, White House spokesman Tony Fratto stated that waterboarding could be re-authorized for use “under certain circumstances.”  This statement is highly troubling, and demonstrates yet again why all coercive interrogation techniques must be prohibited.

Given the now public disagreement over your comments on waterboarding to Mr. Wright, I ask that you provide the transcript to help clarify the public debate over this interrogation technique. 


                                                Dianne Feinstein
                                                U.S. Senator