Waterboarding IS TORTURE - Page 1

Regardless of what Dick Cheney or George Bush say, waterboarding is definitely a form of torture, illegal and inhumane according to the Geneva Convention rules. This country screams bloody murder when any one of our military is subjected to torture treatment. After Cheney and Bush say it is just “a dunk in the water”, what will be the repercussions when our enemies capture our soldiers? Bush says that if a prisoner has information we need, he should be subjected to whatever treatment is necessary to get that information from him. The US has always been above reproach when dealing with prisoners. All of a sudden, we ship prisoners to other countries in order to abuse them in any way we desire, or send them to Guantanamo without ever being charged, or convicted of any crime. We are no longer “the good guys.” Everyone should be told the truth, that waterboarding IS torture, and our indulgence in this form of torture will surely backfire on our military. The bottom line without further discussion is: STOP THE WATERBOARDING, SHUT DOWN GUANTANAMO.

Waterboarding is a form of torture that consists of immobilizing a person on his or her back, with the head inclined downward, and pouring water over the face and into the breathing passages. Through forced suffocation and inhalation of water, the subject experiences the process of drowning in a controlled environment and is made to believe that death is imminent. In contrast to merely submerging the head face-forward, waterboarding almost immediately elicits the gag reflex. Although waterboarding can be performed in ways that leave no lasting physical damage, it carries the risks of extreme pain, damage to the lungs, brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation, injuries (including broken bones) due to struggling against restraints, and even death. The psychological effects on victims of waterboarding can last for years after the procedure.

Waterboarding has been used in interrogations at least as early as the Spanish Inquisition. It has been used for interrogation purposes, to obtain information, coerce confessions, punish, and intimidate. Today it is considered to be torture by a wide range of authorities, including legal experts, politicians, war veterans, intelligence officials, military judges, and human rights organizations. Waterboarding gained recent attention and notoriety in the United States when the press reported that the CIA had used waterboarding in the interrogation of certain extrajudicial prisoners and that the Justice Department had authorized this procedure.] The new controversy surrounded the widely reported use of waterboarding by the United States government on alleged terrorists, and whether the practice was acceptable.


The waterboarding technique was characterized in 2005 by former CIA director Porter J. Goss as a "professional interrogation technique." According to press accounts, a cloth or plastic wrap is placed over or in the person's mouth, and water is poured on to the person's head. As far as the details of this technique, press accounts differ - one article describes "dripping water into a wet cloth over a suspect's face", another states that "cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him." CIA officers who have subjected themselves to the technique have lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in.

Two televised segments, one from Fox News and one from Current TV, demonstrate a waterboarding technique that may be the subject of these press descriptions. In the videos, each correspondent is held against a board by the interrogators. In the Current TV segment, a rag is then forced into the correspondent's mouth, and several pitchers of water are poured onto the rag. The interrogators periodically remove the rag, and the correspondent is seen to gasp for breath. The Fox News segment mentions five "phases" of which the first three are shown. In the first phase, water is simply poured onto the correspondent's face. The second phase is similar to the Current TV episode. In phase three, plastic wrap is placed over the correspondent's face, and a hole is poked into it over his mouth. Water is poured into his mouth through the hole, causing him to gag. He mentions that it really does cause him to gag; that it could lead to asphyxiation; and that he could stand it for only a few seconds.

Dating back to the Spanish Inquisition, the technique has been favored because, unlike most other torture techniques, it produces no marks on the body. According to some experts, information retrieved from waterboarding may not be reliable because a person under such duress may admit to anything, as harsh interrogation techniques lead to false confessions. "'The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law,' claims John Sifton of Human Rights Watch."

Mental and physical effects

In an open letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Human Rights Watch claimed that waterboarding can cause the sort of "severe pain" prohibited by 18 USC 2340 (the implementation in the United States of the United Nations Convention Against Torture), that the psychological effects can last long after waterboarding ends (another of the criteria under 18 USC 2340), and that uninterrupted waterboarding can ultimately cause death.

Dr. Allen Keller, the director of the Bellevue/N.Y.U. Program for Survivors of Torture, has treated "a number of people" who had been subjected to forms of near-asphyxiation, including waterboarding. An interview for The New Yorker states, "He argued that it was indeed torture, 'Some victims were still traumatized years later', he said. One patient couldn't take showers, and panicked when it rained. 'The fear of being killed is a terrifying experience,' he said." Keller also stated in his testimony before the Senate that "Water-boarding or mock drowning, where a prisoner is bound to an inclined board and water is poured over their face, inducing a terrifying fear of drowning clearly can result in immediate and long-term health consequences. As the prisoner gags and chokes, the terror of imminent death is pervasive, with all of the physiologic and psychological responses expected, including an intense stress response, manifested by tachycardia (rapid heart beat) and gasping for breath. There is a real risk of death from actually drowning or suffering a heart attack or damage to the lungs from inhalation of water. Long term effects include panic attacks, depression. I remind you of the patient I described earlier who would panic and gasp for breath whenever it rained even years after his abuse."

Vietnam War

Water boarding was designated as illegal by U.S. generals in the Vietnam War. On January 21, 1968, The Washington Post published a controversial photograph of an American soldier supervising the waterboarding of a North Vietnamese POW near Da Nang. The article described the practice as "fairly common." The photograph led to the soldier being court-martialled by a U.S. military court within one month of its publication, and he was thrown out of the army. Another waterboarding photograph of the same scene is also exhibited in the War Remnants Museum at Ho Chi Minh City.

Contemporary use and the United States

Many reports say that intelligence officers of the United States used waterboarding to interrogate prisoners captured in its War on Terrorism.

The June 21, 2004 issue of Newsweek stated that the Bybee memo, a 2002 legal memorandum drafted by former OLC lawyer John Yoo that described what sort of interrogation tactics against suspected terrorists or terrorist affiliates the Bush administration would consider legal, was "prompted by CIA questions about what to do with a top Qaeda captive, Abu Zubaydah, who had turned uncooperative...and was drafted after White House meetings convened by George W. Bush's chief counsel, Alberto Gonzales, along with Defense Department general counsel William Haynes and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's counsel, who discussed specific interrogation techniques, says a source familiar with the discussions." Among the methods they found acceptable was water-boarding.

In November 2005, ABC News reported that former CIA agents claimed that the CIA engaged in a modern form of waterboarding, along with five other "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques", against suspected members of al Qaeda.

On July 20, 2007, U.S. President George W. Bush signed an executive order banning torture during interrogation of terror suspects. While the guidelines for interrogation do not specifically ban waterboarding, the executive order refers to torture as defined by 18 USC 2340, which includes "the threat of imminent death," as well as the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Reaction to the order was mixed, with the CIA satisfied that it "clearly defined" the agency's authorities, but Human Rights Watch saying that answer about what specific techniques had been banned lay in the classified companion document and that "the people in charge of interpreting [that] document don't have a particularly good track record of reasonable legal analysis."

On September 14, 2007, ABC News reported that sometime in 2006 CIA Director Michael Hayden asked for and received permission from the Bush administration to ban the use of waterboarding in CIA interrogations. The source of information is current and former CIA officials. ABC reported that waterboarding had been authorized by a 2002 Presidential finding. On November 5, 2007, The Wall Street Journal reported that its "sources confirm... that the CIA has only used this interrogation method against three terrorist detainees and not since 2003." John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, is the first official within the U.S. government to openly admit to the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique, as of December 10, 2007.

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