Waterboarding Lies in the News Again

The AFP reported that "An elite US interrogation unit will conduct ‘scientific research' to find better ways of questioning top suspected terrorists" according to the US intelligence director Dennis Blair.

This is its own story.  In fact, it belies the claim that we had more effective, but less harsh, methods that could have used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), 9/11 mastermind, and others.

But the AFP went beyond that story.

"US interrogation tactics in the global war on terrorism have drawn heavy scrutiny in the United States and overseas because of the past use of techniques like waterboarding that meet international definitions of torture.  Obama formally abolished such methods shortly after taking office..."

There are two claims there: (1) waterboarding meets "international definitions of torture" and (2) Obama formally abolished such methods.  Neither of these claims is true.

Waterboarding, as conducted by the US or its contractors, has never been ruled "torture" in any court, domestic or international.  If it has, please let me know.  I mean legally binding rulings, not non-binding statements by the expert of your choice.

And Obama did not "abolish" waterboarding or other methods.  What he did "formally" was issue an executive order on his second day in office, January 22, 2009.  Included in that order was this loophole.

"From this day forward, unless the Attorney General with appropriate consultation provides further guidance, officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government may, in conducting interrogations, act in reliance upon Army Field Manual 2-22.3, but may not, in conducting interrogations, rely upon any interpretation of the law governing interrogation -- including interpretations of Federal criminal laws, the Convention Against Torture, Common Article 3, Army Field Manual 2-22.3, and its predecessor document, Army Field Manual 34-52 -- issued by the Department of Justice between September 11, 2001, and January 20, 2009."  [My emphasis.]

That simply says government interrogators should listen to Eric Holder instead of going by John Yoo's memo before going beyond the Army Field Manual.  If Eric Holder, with appropriate consultation of course, says waterboarding is OK, then it is OK.  My reading of this executive order says nothing has really changed.

For history buffs, the US used waterboarding to interrogate three men shortly after 9/11 and has not been used since 2003.  The technique was carefully calibrated: so many pours, so many pours per minute, so many minutes, etc.  Also, each waterboarding session was attended by both a physician and a psychologist.  All this calibration was to ensure that the technique did not cross the boundary into "torture."  While KSM was reported as having received 183 pours, those pours happened in only five waterboarding sessions.  Somewhere by that fifth session he was willing to explain a plot to kill thousands of Americans, allowing it to be thwarted.

This style of waterboarding was also used on our own military men during survival training.  It might still be; the military is not saying.  I'm pretty sure we are not allowed to torture our own soldiers.

Nancy Pelosi and other congresspersons knew of US waterboarding by 2003.  Congress did nothing to outlaw it.  It was legal, and it remains legal.  And if Eric Holder gives the OK, it could happen to you.
The AFP reported that "An elite US interrogation unit will conduct ‘scientific research' to find better ways of questioning top suspected terrorists" according to the US intelligence director Dennis Blair.

This is its own story.  In fact, it belies the claim that we had more effective, but less harsh, methods that could have used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), 9/11 mastermind, and others.

But the AFP went beyond that story.

"US interrogation tactics in the global war on terrorism have drawn heavy scrutiny in the United States and overseas because of the past use of techniques like waterboarding that meet international definitions of torture.  Obama formally abolished such methods shortly after taking office..."

There are two claims there: (1) waterboarding meets "international definitions of torture" and (2) Obama formally abolished such methods.  Neither of these claims is true.

Waterboarding, as conducted by the US or its contractors, has never been ruled "torture" in any court, domestic or international.  If it has, please let me know.  I mean legally binding rulings, not non-binding statements by the expert of your choice.

And Obama did not "abolish" waterboarding or other methods.  What he did "formally" was issue an executive order on his second day in office, January 22, 2009.  Included in that order was this loophole.

"From this day forward, unless the Attorney General with appropriate consultation provides further guidance, officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government may, in conducting interrogations, act in reliance upon Army Field Manual 2-22.3, but may not, in conducting interrogations, rely upon any interpretation of the law governing interrogation -- including interpretations of Federal criminal laws, the Convention Against Torture, Common Article 3, Army Field Manual 2-22.3, and its predecessor document, Army Field Manual 34-52 -- issued by the Department of Justice between September 11, 2001, and January 20, 2009."  [My emphasis.]

That simply says government interrogators should listen to Eric Holder instead of going by John Yoo's memo before going beyond the Army Field Manual.  If Eric Holder, with appropriate consultation of course, says waterboarding is OK, then it is OK.  My reading of this executive order says nothing has really changed.

For history buffs, the US used waterboarding to interrogate three men shortly after 9/11 and has not been used since 2003.  The technique was carefully calibrated: so many pours, so many pours per minute, so many minutes, etc.  Also, each waterboarding session was attended by both a physician and a psychologist.  All this calibration was to ensure that the technique did not cross the boundary into "torture."  While KSM was reported as having received 183 pours, those pours happened in only five waterboarding sessions.  Somewhere by that fifth session he was willing to explain a plot to kill thousands of Americans, allowing it to be thwarted.

This style of waterboarding was also used on our own military men during survival training.  It might still be; the military is not saying.  I'm pretty sure we are not allowed to torture our own soldiers.

Nancy Pelosi and other congresspersons knew of US waterboarding by 2003.  Congress did nothing to outlaw it.  It was legal, and it remains legal.  And if Eric Holder gives the OK, it could happen to you.