The question, which nearly sunk the nomination of Attorney General Michael Mukasey, means Holder will have to make a decision, if confirmed, whether to investigate Bush administration officials who condoned the use of the tactic on suspected terrorists.
"I agree with you chairman that waterboarding is torture," Holder said. He also said U.S. officials could be held accountable for transferring prisoners to the custody of foreign agents or contractors who use such tactics.
Leahy, pushing further, asked whether the commander in chief could immunize officials who sanctioned the use of waterboarding against legal fallout. Many have speculated that President George W. Bush may preemptively pardon members of his administration who were involved in devising and carrying out a CIA detention and interrogation program that involved the use of waterboarding and other harsh methods on suspected terrorists.
"Mr. Chairman, no one is above the law," Holder said."The president acts most forcefully when he acts consistent with congressional intent."
Holder said interrogation methods in the Obama administration would be consistent with treaty obligations.