ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On Waterboarding

From today's Wall Street Journal comes this excellent analysis regarding the fact that the Congressional Dems (who now have their panties in a bind) actually encouraged the use of waterboarding throughout some 30 briefings. (Subscription required)

Waterboarding: Congress Knew
December 11, 2007; Page A26
[...]
Porter Goss, the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee who later served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006 is explicit about what happened in these meetings: "Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing. And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."

In all, the CIA provided Congress with some 30 briefings on waterboarding before it became a public issue.

Why would the CIA want to tell the most senior members of Congress about anything so sensitive? No doubt in part because senior officials at the CIA, not to mention the interrogators themselves, assuredly did not want to begin any such policy absent closing the political and legal loop on it.

The Congressional briefings touched the political base, and a Justice Department memo at that time deemed the interrogation methods legal. Most crucially, bear in mind that when pressed about all this at his confirmation hearings, Attorney General Michael Mukasey pointedly said he would not make a post-facto condemnation of the techniques, thereby putting the "freedom" of the interrogators at risk, "simply because I want to be congenial."

At the time, we wrote that this was a sign of Judge Mukasey's character. That word would not spring to mind in describing what the Post's account says about Congress.

One certainly may hold as abhorrent the idea of aggressively interrogating any terrorists ever, either for fear of what they might do to our people, as John McCain does, or because one thinks this violates our values. What one may not do -- at least not if one wants the system to function -- is assent to such a policy in 2002 and then, when the policy is made public, put up the pretense that one is "shocked" and appalled to learn of it.

This is bad faith. Worse, it risks setting in motion the ruin or eventual criminal prosecution of CIA employees who in 2002 did what the Bush Administration, Congress and indeed the nation wanted them to do to protect the American people from another September 11.

It has been widely reported by now that waterboarding was used on only three individuals -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned the airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon; Abu Zebaydah, an Osama bin Laden confidante captured in Pakistan 2002 and described as a director of al-Qaeda operations; and a third unidentified person. If Speaker Pelosi and her colleagues want the handling of such terrorists conformed to what they call "our values," then she should define that and put it in an explicit piece of legislation. Then let the Members vote yea or nay, in public, on the record.

But don't sign off on such a sensitive policy at a moment when the nation's "values" support it, then later feign revulsion when you can't take the heat from the loudest in your political constituency. There was a time when politics at least assumed more backbone than that.
Now,
One thing consistent about the Dems, the MSM, and the Nutroots is that they will always act in bad faith, driven by their derangement over W's very existence.

But, one reason for this is the fact that no one appears to be willing to actually consider whether water boarding is torture. I wrote back in 2005 that the 6 CIA interrogation techniques (which had recently been brought to light) could hardly be described as "torture" - especially not when the use of the worst techniques like water boarding were reserved for only the highest value illegal combatants. As I wrote back then:
[...]
"They would not let you rest, day or night. Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down. Don't sleep. Don't lie on the floor," one prisoner said through a translator. The detainees were also forced to listen to rap artist Eminem's "Slim Shady" album. The music was so foreign to them it made them frantic, sources said.
This is terrible... no one should be forced to listen to such noise. Of course, this may be the claims of a terrorist prisoner or that of a raver on ecstasy from Aurora, Illinois - who can be sure?
[...]
The CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:
1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.
holy cow!!! they're shaking a guy and touching his clothing!! l'horreur!!! l'horreur!!!
2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.
I believe this is referred to as a "b!tch slap" and is common among 6th graders.
3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.
It's a good thing they're not using a closed fist... just a slap to the abdomen. I bet it leaves a red mark - kind of like when you do a big belly flop into a pool??
4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.
Prisoners are forced to stand in a single spot? Yes, 40 hours seems like a long time and this is probably excruciating... but, so is dying from ball-bearings and bone fragments flying through your body after an explosion.
5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.
Sounds like a weekend at my house, frankly... Wife can sometimes go overboard...
6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.
Ok, this one sounds pretty bad... No doubt college fraternities are taking notes for their next hazing ritual.

Of all of the techniques described above, the water-boarding sounds like it's the worse... woops, forgot about the Eminem.... nah, I would still prefer Slim Shady over waterboarding.

But seriously folks... when the Dems and the Media talk about torture, images of much worse come to mind. I know I normally have visions of car batteries... fingernails being pulled off, etc. And it's important to note that these techniques have only been used on 12 - count them, 12 - of Al Qaeda's top leadership. These are not employed for your average terrorist caught in the field. The fact that most of these techniques are rather milquetoast (shirt grabbing?!?!) and authorized only for the top leaderhsip makes me question our seriousness when interrogating prisoners.
And, I think it's also important to point out the actual designation of terrorists as illegal combatants. I firmly believe that when a combatant is not abiding by the rules contained in the Geneva Convention regarding on how to be considered a legal combatant (who is therefore granted the legal protections provided in the Convention), then they should be handled as illegal combatants and need not be provided the protections that the Geneva Convention requires.

An illegal combatant in World War II (e.g., someone who donned civilian clothes and then attacked) could be summarily shot.

Yes, a Geneva Protocol was created in the late '70s to provide protections to illegal combatants, but it is not part of the Convention. It is still a Protocol and the US has never signed up to its language. (Jimmy Carter had some sense after all!)

Any protections we extend to terrorists are only because we are more humane and more compassionate than we are required to be.

We don't torture our captives because it is against our nature. Of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" described above, only waterboarding approaches the line where a technique could be considered torture. Whether it is or not can be debated...

The fact that Congress was aware and supportive of such techniques throughout 30 briefings either removes their ability to criticize the practice or condemns them along with the Bush administration.

Which is it?

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler