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CIA sources also claim that the practice has saved lives because vital information about terror plots has been discovered.
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou claims waterboarding has been used on three Al Qaeda suspects including Abu Zubaida, accused of training jihadist terrorists, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind 9/11.
And as a direct result, the CIA was given the go-ahead to punch suspected terrorists, deprive them of sleep, and practise waterboarding - simulated drowning. According to the sources, Mr Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, then Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Attorney General John Ashcroft met in the White House following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
They agreed to authorise what they call "enhanced interrogation techniques" as the Bush administration has defined "torture" only as actions which are designed to cause serious injury or death.
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A former intelligence official said that those who attended the dozens of White House meetings agreed that "there'd need to be a legal opinion on the legality of these tactics" before using them on Al Qaeda detainees.
However, experts have said that waterboarding is so horrific that even the most hardened terrorists have not been able to stand it for more than a minute without begging to talk.
While there have long been suspicions that the White House was involved in the decision, the actions have until now been blamed on the CIA and unnamed officials at the Pentagon. Voters in the US has been so disgusted at the use of torture that there will now be great pressure to prosecute the White House leadership - especially Mr Cheney, who is generally seen as the most hardline of the alleged offenders.
The White House meetings were also attended by George Tenet, then the director of the CIA.
Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy severely criticised what he described as "yet another astonishing disclosure about the Bush administration and its use of torture"."Who would have thought that in the United States of America in the 21st century, the top officials of the executive branch would routinely gather in the White House to approve torture?