James B. Comey, President Obama's nominee for F.B.I. director, said on Tuesday that although he authorized the use of waterboarding when he was a deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush, he believes that the technique is torture and illegal.
"When I first learned about waterboarding when I became deputy attorney general, my reaction as a citizen and a leader was, this is torture," Mr. Comey said in testimony during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It's still what I think."
But Mr. Comey, who was the deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005 under Mr. Bush and whose job was to review the government's legal opinions, said the question of whether waterboarding was legal was hard to determine because the government's statute was vague. He said that despite believing it was legal at the time, he urged the administration to stop using the tactic.