PolitiFact is PolitiWrong on Waterboarding

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PolitiFact didn’t do its homework. The experts it consulted are just expert critics. They failed to dig deeper- kind of like the Feinstein Report failed to consult those directly involved in the program they were “investigating” with a predetermined outcome. (First came the conclusion; then a 5 year selective Easter egg hunt, shaping it to the narrative).

PolitiFact decided to run a “factcheck” on U.S. Senate candidate Todd Wilcox:

In an interview published in the Miami Herald on May 20, Wilcox blamed the White House for limiting the country’s ability to gain intelligence from alleged terrorists.

“I can tell you that the enhanced interrogation techniques that have since been banned by this administration — specifically waterboarding — work,” said Wilcox, who is vying for the Republican nomination to replace Sen. Marco Rubio. “They work on the terrorists, and there’s a proven history of that.”

Wilcox didn’t consider the practice to be torture, and also said while he didn’t advocate overusing waterboarding, it’s an option that should be available for interrogators.

We wanted to know if waterboarding — strapping a prisoner to a board or table and then pouring water over a cloth covering their mouth and nose to simulate drowning — was a proven method of questioning someone.

Epic fail and lazy research on the part of PolitiFact for not going beyond mainstream media’s superficial reporting which basically accepted and parroted the bullet points given out from the Feinstein Report.

They did consult Reed College political science professor Darius Rejali. But while an expert in what he knows, what he knows also reveals what he doesn’t know: Basically, that he’s ignorant of the arguments made from experts on the other side of the coin. He simply knocks down the strawman claims, hawked around ad nauseam by the critics for years now.

Rejali has valid points- but they reveal an ignorance of the role waterboarding played within the CIA program. Also his partisanship when he claims most officials defending waterboarding have “jobs at stake over the practice”. That is not the case with Morell and Hayden, who came on board the CIA after the practice was already done away with.

The CIA Rebuttal to the Feinstein Report was mentioned, but nothing cited. Please also reference Mark Theissen’s book, as well as that of Jose Rodriguez, Mike Morell, and more recently Michael Hayden.

Hayden, who came on board in 2006 at a time when the CIA interrogation program was suspended (in wake of the 2005 DTA, Hamdan v Rumsfeld, 2005 disclosure by WaPo on black sites and waterboarding, the 2006 MCA…), revived the program, but took a few of the 13-approved EITs off the menu. Among them was waterboarding (CIA hadn’t waterboarded anyone since KSM, in March of 2003. He was the last of 3 HVDs who received the CIA swimming lessons). Hayden, in his book, defends the harsh EIT and claims it was effective against Zubaydah and KSM (sleep deprivation also had a profound effect on KSM)- both of whom became cooperative and a great source of intell after EITs were applied. (Ali Soufan has a different narrative in regards to Zubaydah’s interrogation- but it’s disputed by the CIA).

Waterboarding is unlikely to be brought back. It was never in widespread use. SITs even within the CIA interrogation program were applied to 2/3rds of the HVDs in their custody. Only about 33 or 39 out of 119 HVD received any form of EIT whatsoever; and this was because these were ones who were 1) Believed to be hiding important information that could save lives. And 2) Were resistant to standard interrogation methods. Some of these guys had received interrogation resistance training and knew how to defeat commonly used techniques. Also, when you’re dealing with brainwashed, committed religious fanatics who are not afraid to martyr themselves, the kind of rapport-building techniques favored by the FBI just might not be as effective on some of them as guys like Soufan, Caramino, and Carle, and Eric Fair claim.

by 2006, over half of what we came to understand about al Qaeda arose out of the CIA interrogation program. Before that, we knew very little about al Qaeda’s inner workings. As the GWoT moved on, EITs were applied less and less. In the early days, we needed to know more and we needed it fast, as there were plenty of intell buzz about a second wave of attacks.

Since its legal approval in the aftermath of 9/11, things have changed. Besides the legislations and one of the court decisions I cited earlier that have complicated matters, there has also been the 2015-2016 NDAA with an amendment that restricts all government agencies to abide by the Army FM.

Yes, torture is unreliable (but it has worked). Yes, it is undesirable and repugnant to our sense of high morals. Those who say “They’ll tell you anything when tortured” misunderstand the role of EITs within the CIA program. The purpose of EITs wasn’t to extract confessions or information. It was to induce a sense of helplessness and bring the HVD into a state of cooperation. Information would then be gathered later, during debriefing.

13 Responses to “PolitiFact is PolitiWrong on Waterboarding”

  1. 3

    john

    Waterboarding is torture.
    You sound like those who defended the use of torture against witches 500 years ago.
    I suppose that you would also agree with the Nazis use of torture also “saved lives”
    Wordsmith
    Do all nations and organizations have the moral right to torture if it “saves lives”?
    Here is a discription of the effect of torture on CIA stattion chief William F Buckley from Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Francis_Buckley#cite_note-Thomas-6
    United States, Buckley had undergone 15 months of torture by Hezbollah before his death.[A] In a video taken approximately seven months after the kidnapping, his appearance was described as follows:
    Buckley was close to a gibbering wretch. His words were often incoherent; he slobbered and drooled and, most unnerving of all, he would suddenly scream in terror, his eyes rolling helplessly and his body shaking. . . . The CIA consensus was that he would be blindfolded and chained at the ankles and wrists and kept in a cell little bigger than a coffin.[6]
    You might also like to read the report made by Maj Gen Taguba
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taguba_Report
    Taguba alos reported that video was made of rape of teenage boys in the presence of their mothers to try and force high ranking officials and officers to surrender themselves
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/5395830/Abu-Ghraib-abuse-photos-show-rape.html
    No doubt trhe people involved believed that theor actions would save American lives
    No doubt those former Bathists who did not surrender are now part of the core leadership of ISIS

  2. 4

    Wordsmith

    editor

    @Missy: Miss seeing you around these parts, Missy! Thanks for checking in.

    @john: I don’t mean to be rude, but…I’m going to be rude here: You really are a special kind of stupid this morning, aren’t you?

    Are you senile? In what corner of this universe do you inhabit in which you essentially are displaying a willful ignorance of what I’ve written in past posts? You’ve been around here long enough to know enough that you should be able to formulate your arguments to be built around the things I’ve written on this topic rather than the strawman you wish to set up in my stead. Either that, or you simply have zero interest in actually engaging in thought and reflection on what is written in blogposts, but merely come in here to no-sell and not engage in substantive debate and dialogue; but to push an agenda and blather ideology.

    You wrote:

    Waterboarding is torture.

    And what is my answer to that, john ryan? I want to see if you’ve been paying attention or if you simply choose to plead ignorance and admit you don’t bother to actually read what I write. Your interest is in knocking down right-wing positions you wish to caricaturize with left wing talking points.

    You sound like those who defended the use of torture against witches 500 years ago.

    I’m calling bullsh*t on your cowsh*t.

    If you think I share the same belief as say, Trump, on the issue of waterboarding, then you either don’t pay attention or actually read; or you lack the mental acumen to understand sophisticated argument.

    I suppose that you would also agree with the Nazis use of torture also “saved lives”
    Wordsmith
    Do all nations and organizations have the moral right to torture if it “saves lives”?

    I reject the premise of your supposition. You clearly don’t pay attention.

    William F Buckley was tortured. And for what purpose? Are you comparing CIA EITs with what was done to Buckley?

    You wrote:

    You might also like to read the report made by Maj Gen Taguba

    Ah, I see. Let’s not just move goal posts but start playing with a different team.

    My focus has been on the CIA RDI program. This is different than Pentagon’s control over detention and interrogation under the military structure. Abu Ghraib has nothing to do with CIA interrogations. But let’s go ahead and go on your little detour, here.

    The Taguba Report is narrowly focused on the specifics of abu Ghraib and the 800th Military Police Brigade.

    The Church Report’s conclusion back in 2004 (around the same time as the Taguba Report), after 8,000 interviews with key personnel and pouring over thousands of documents, was that the VAST MAJORITY of detainees have been treated humanely; and that most of the abuses that did occur were unrelated to interrogation practices. Unlike the Taguba Report, the Church Report examined all interrogation and detention facilities of the U.S. military, around the world.

  3. 6

    John

    “The vast majority were treated humanely…..”
    It should have been 100%
    Anything less is not acceptable
    Now I don’t know the name of the Iraqi officer whose wife was force to watch her teen son raped but I am guessing he is now with ISIS
    We would have been better off today if we had provided all those detained with porn and Budweiser if we had really wanted to transform them into pseudo Americans
    Torture is immoral would you yourself do it ?

  4. 7

    Missy

    @john:

    Waterboarding is not torture, it doesn’t come close to the definition of torture, does not leave the terrorists physically or mentally impaired, maimed, impact organs, etc.

    And your crazy, lengthy diatribe has absolutely nothing to do with the way waterboarding was practiced in the three situations it was used.

    Thanks Word!! We are in the process of selling our farm and hopefully will be out of the boonies and back in civilization where you can be on your computer longer than a half hour before it freezes up and does maddening things! We are so rural that we just got 911 four or five years ago, hope we never have to use it.

  5. 8

    John

    In WW II we convicted Japanese officers of torture for water boarding
    Americans called it tirture then
    If it was done to captured Americans what would you call it ?

  6. 9

    Wordsmith

    editor

    @Missy: I’m an absolute city slicker. I don’t think I could survive out in the rural environment without going stir-crazy.

    @John: This is a perfect example of, once again, my belief that you don’t bother to read or care to listen to the other side. This is another one of those classic talking points that critics of the CIA waterboarding like to drum up, ever since Ted Kennedy made mention of it, I believe.

    I wish we could push the conversation forward and pick up where it’s been left off. New information. New dialogue. Instead, I have to rehash what’s been hashed dozens of times for the last 5-10 years.

    The case of Yukio Asano and other Japanese officers being prosecuted for their illegal actions during WWII had to do with a lot more than simply “water torture” (a far different cry from the SERE-inspired CIA method of waterboarding. Yes, there are gradations; please read descriptions of what Japanese water torture entailed). It wasn’t water torture alone that convicted them.

    I am aware of only two Japanese officers who were prosecuted for water torture, alone; of those two, Yukio Asano is the only one convicted- and because he water tortured a civilian- a clear violation of the GC; as well as POWs (legal cover due to being legal, uniformed combatants- terrorists don’t fall under POW status protections) of a nation who is a signatory of the GC.

    Most of what you see is that “water torture” was included as part of a broad range of abuses- and when you read the description of how it was carried out, it was clearly torture and meant to inflict pain and suffering.

    That ain’t the CIA version of waterboarding.

  7. 10

    Bryan W. White

    @Wordsmith:

    Asano had multiple specifications against him, including incidences of beatings and burning prisoners with cigarettes. The descriptions of the water torture Asano used make a poor match for CIA waterboarding.

    And a technical point that I’ve reported incorrectly in the past: The Japanese weren’t guilty of failure to comply with the Geneva Conventions. Japan wasn’t a party to those. The applicable laws of war came from the Hague Conventions, which Japan had signed.

  8. 11

    John

    Water torture was also s fav if Pll Pits Khymer Rouge
    One of the very few who survived said he confessed to witkkngvwithbyge KGB and the CIA as well as being a Catholic Cardinal
    Water boarding is torture and torture I believe is morally wrong if you believe otherwise you have a different sense of morality than me
    I think that as Anericans we are better than that
    I also think that because of the torture that was done to KSM and others that they may never be convicted and justice served

  9. 12

    Wordsmith

    editor

    @Bryan W. White:

    And a technical point that I’ve reported incorrectly in the past: The Japanese weren’t guilty of failure to comply with the Geneva Conventions. Japan wasn’t a party to those. The applicable laws of war came from the Hague Conventions, which Japan had signed.

    Thanks for that. That’s always been on my “to do” list of things to research if Japan was a signatory of the GC. I wasn’t sure.

    One of the reasons best reasons for not allowing non-uniformed enemy combatants to qualify for POW status treatment is that it removes the incentive for lawful warfare and endangers civilians.

    Everyone should be protected and treated humanely according to the provisions in the GC. Incidentally, broader GC protections were meant to apply only to signatory nations.

    The Bush Administration believed that in denying captured terrorists the rights and privileges that are afforded lawful enemy combatants, they were actually supporting the spirit of the GC. How so? Because by giving equal cover to terrorists and lawful, uniformed soldiers, it removes the incentive for enemy combatants not to cloak themselves amongst a civilian populace. One of the purposes of the GCs is to protect innocent civilian lives.

    The 2006 SC decision (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld), btw, is flawed in that the GC’s Common Article III protections were intended to cover civil wars and not international terrorist attacks.

    The GCs give maximum protection to non-combatants- innocent civilians. The next level of protection is afforded to fighters who obey the laws of war. The least amount of protection is given to those fighters who do not obey the rules. The GCs operates on an incentive system. Granting terrorists the same privileges as that of POWs undermines part of the purpose of the GCs and puts civilians into greater risk of harm.

    @John:

    Water boarding is torture and torture I believe is morally wrong

    You know what else is morally wrong? Not having the moral fortitude to do what needs doing in order to prevent another 9/11.

    if you believe otherwise you have a different sense of morality than me
    I think that as Anericans we are better than that

    I agree, to a degree. Do you know who else believes torture is wrong? Tenet. Bush. Rumsfeld. Now you may not like where they drew the line on what constitutes torture. But they absolutely did draw a line beyond which they did not wish to cross.

    Intelligence officials and military officers were both going up the chain of command, asking for approval for techniques that went beyond those permitted in the Army FM at a time when we knew very little about al Qaeda’s inner workings and future plots (on the heels of 9/11, there was an enormous amount of buzz regarding a “second wave”). The reason for EITs:

    1) The Army FM and military and law enforcement methods in general in regards to interrogation practices were public knowledge and easily researched on the internet. A number of terrorists had received interrogation resistance training. They knew how to defeat SITs.

    2) Some were simply tough and hard to crack. Some coercive techniques were already in the Army FM- but didn’t go far enough in breaking a terrorist. Those wishing martyrdom had the mindset of the religious fanatic who has nothing to lose. It makes certain interrogation techniques useless. How do you convince an enemy to cooperate when he’s rejected living? He no longer has anything to lose.

    Bush rejected one EIT that was deemed more severe than waterboarding (it’s been guessed that the technique was mock execution). Waterboarding was chosen because it was deemed effective in SERE training. CIA waterboarding modeled itself after that. It was not the same “water torture” carried out by the Japanese, the Khmer Rouge, or the Spanish Inquisition. So just stop with that. The OLC memo is best described as “How not to torture”outlining a number of restrictions placed upon the techniques to avoid “crossing that line”, legally and ethically.

    EITs were mostly psychological tricks to make HVDs believe their situation was much more dire than the reality.

    After the early years following 9/11, after we started learning more about how al Qaeda operated, the need for EITs lessened. Only 33 or 39 out of 119 within the CIA program received any form of it. SITs proved sufficient and appropriate for all others.

    I also think that because of the torture that was done to KSM and others that they may never be convicted and justice served

    What would you do in 2003, when asking KSM (the mastermind of 9/11- responsible for the deaths of 3,000 civilians), “What do you know of future plots” and he comes back with, “Soon you will know.”? Rapport build? Concern yourself with obtaining confessions for legal prosecution or concern yourself with gathering actionable intelligence to prevent the next terror attack?

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