CIA Bans Water-Boarding
CIA Director Michael Hayden has officially banned water-boarding, the most criticized of its interrogation techniques and one that has not been used in several years.
The practice of water-boarding has been branded as “torture” by human rights groups and a number of leading U.S. officials, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., because it amounted to a “mock execution.” Today, in New Hampshire, Sen. McCain told ABC News, “I have sought that result for years. Water-boarding is a form of torture. And I’m convinced that this will not only help us in our interrogation techniques, but it will also be helpful for our image in the world.”
While new legislation reportedly gave the CIA the leeway to use water-boarding, current and former CIA officials said Gen. Hayden decided to take it off the list of about six “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
While welcoming the move, some critics say the CIA did not go far enough. “I can say it’s a good thing, but the fact remains that the entire program is illegal,” John Sifton of Human Rights Watch told ABCNews.com.
As a result of the decision, officials say, the most extreme techniques left available to CIA interrogators would be what is termed “longtime standing,” which includes exhaustion and sleep deprivation with prisoners forced to stand, handcuffed with their feet shackled to the floor. “It is a very severe form of torture which causes tremendous psychic toll to people,” said Sifton.
It is believed that water-boarding was used on fewer than five “high-value” terrorist subjects, and had not been used for three to four years.
Its most effective use, say current and former CIA officials, was in breaking Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, known as KSM, who subsequently confessed to a number of ongoing plots against the United States. A senior CIA official said KSM later admitted it was only because of the water-boarding that he talked. Ultimately, KSM took responsibility for the 9/ll attacks and virtually all other al Qaeda terror strikes, including the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. “KSM lasted the longest under water-boarding, about a minute and a half, but once he broke, it never had to be used again,” said a former CIA official familiar with KSM’s case.
Georgetown lawprof Marty Lederman, in a post entitled, “CIA Agrees to Cease One Form of Torture,” thinks, “Agreeing to stop using a technique that the U.S. deemed to be torture over 100 years ago . . . (not to mention a violation of the Geneva Conventions and customary international law)” is hardly a major concession.
Emperor Misha I, The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, responds with “CIA Wimps Hand Another Weapon to al-Qaeda,” and notes the success the technique had in the KSM case. Of course, I’d have confessed to those things too, under torture.
McCain is right here: The value that torture might occasionally bring is far outweighed by the damage it causes.