Tortured Again: By The Senate

Intellectual torture is back, generated by a fully partisan effort by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator Diane Feinstein’s insistence on releasing an executive summary of the, reportedly, 6,000 page report on CIA torture techniques is in severe question by leaders on both sides of the aisle, notably Gen. Michael Hayden and Secretary of State Kerry among others. The President supports the release according to Spokesman Josh Earnest in yesterday’s press briefing.

Putting aside questions of Feinstein’s motivations for resurrecting the issue, we have been at this debate for far too long; volumes of information and commentary has been released including previously classified legal memorandums from internal CIA sources, released by Attorney General Holder. The prevailing premise of the torture debate has changed little over the years.

Premise One: No torture, (read waterboarding) we need to set an example so that our people are not subjected to similar treatment. The primary counter point to this argument is the al Qaeda torture manual.

Response: We need only revisit the beheading videos for a reminder of what the enemy is prepared to do. The very theology they rely on demands stoning, cutting off of hands and feet for thievery and clitoral disfiguration. That’s for the believers! Imagine what’s in store for Infidels. Fact is, that actual torture occurs as a matter of course throughout the Muslim world: Syria, Iran, Hiz’bAllah, Hamas and Egypt chief among them. The outcry over those transgressions is nowhere to be heard nor are they impacted by U.S. policy or politics.

Premise Two: Other methods work.

Response: True they do, but only if you have time! If you believe there is a ticking time bomb, “other methods” will likely not get you there in time as they depend on a highly structured approach to interrogation. We have also publically advised our enemies what we will and won’t do as the Army Interrogation Manual is, by Presidential order, the only acceptable approach.

Premise Three: Torture is abhorrent to our values.

Response: True if you believe waterboarding is, in fact, torture; many are still at loggerheads over a definition of what torture actually is. If we use torture (waterboarding) to train pilots and special ops teams do we not have a logical disconnect that argues that all such training must be outlawed as illegal? There are a variety of “aversion” training techniques used across the military and intelligence communities. Is that training a bad idea? If so, what do we train and equip those folks with; snappy repartee?

Premise Four: Adherence to the Geneva Conventions:

Response: We must adhere to the Conventions related to anyone who has signed the Conventions. terror organizations do not worry about international conventions, in fact the Muslim world rejected the U.N. Convention on Human Rights to publish their own, the Cairo Declarations on Human Rights. Terror organizations are not states; they don’t self-identify as states and consider civilians to be valid targets based on no more evidence than they pay taxes in support of Infidel governments.

Premise Five: The Army Field Manual is enough.

Response: Maybe, if you have the luxury of time; The Army Field Manual itself acknowledges the limitations associated with time when criticality is at play. The manual instructs that ‘before” the interrogation begins the following preparations should be made: initial preparation, review of prior documentation, evaluation of current physical and mental state, determination of legal status, interrogation plan, definition of goals and objectives, review by superior officer (if possible) and determination of techniques to be applied, etc. Sounds time consuming; hopefully nothing goes BOOM in the meantime!

Premise Six: Rights of the incarcerated must be protected.

Response: Recall the mandatory preparations and protections that were place in advance of final approval of the waterboarding executed for three high value detainees. Those conditions were contained in the aforementioned CIA “torture memos” and included multiple levels of supervision that could terminate the interrogation at any time.

  • Psychologists were engaged to determine potential long term effects of sleep deprivation and other techniques.
  • SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Escape) trainers from the U.S. military with extensive experience in the application of waterboarding techniques were engaged to insure severe consequences were not generated.
  • The psychological impact of waterboarding on SERE trainees was addressed in detail by the SERE trainers.
  • A SERE trainer with experience covering 10,000 students reported two trainees dropped out of the training following the application of waterboarding techniques. Some delayed completion of the course but did eventually complete it.
  • In the nine years prior to 2001 26,829 SERE students went through Air Force SERE, 0.014% (37) students were removed from the training for psychological reasons, none reported long term effects. 26,792 did not report any long term effects.
  • The trainer (redacted) was aware of one letter over his 20 years of experience questioning the possibility of long term effects.
    • Medical personnel evaluated the potential for long term harm for all enhanced interrogation methods.
  • Medical personnel were present at all times with authority to stop the interrogation. Authority to terminate also resided with supervisors, trainers and senior officers present.
  • Medical evaluations were mandated in advance of interrogations and were utilized to guide the interrogation plan related to safely.

U.S. law is found in sections 2340 and 2340A of the Criminal Code. The statute requires that for pain and suffering to reach the level of torture it must be “severe” and carry the intent of inflicting severe pain. The mandatory predicates for “severe” and “prolonged harm” are:

  • Intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering.
  • Administration or threatened application of mind-altering substances calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.
  • Threat of imminent death.
  • Threat that any of the preceding acts will be done to another person.

Moral outrage over three instances of waterboarding demands that the premise on the left be reversed; your wife, husband, son, daughter, grandparent, friend is in imminent, time sensitive danger with the possibility they could be saved with information procured by aggressive interrogation? What do you do? Where does your moral center fall? That question, typically, renders the self-righteous Greek chorus mute every time!


Cross-posted from
  • Bob

    Reading this I would have thought the concern for time constraints shown in this piece was written by the current administration which has little regard for veterans in need of help at the Veterans Administration. You see the enemy has the same “time” concerns about things going “BOOM” in their face that is discussed in this article. We were outraged by the torture treatment our troops got at the hands of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong for pertinent information of an imminent attack or confessions to prosecute as war criminals. If you are going to justify any information gathering method on such flimsy reasoning as “time constraints” and who should and shouldn’t be labeled military combatants then don’t expect the enemy to practice morals because we sure aren’t exhibiting any. I say flimsy reasoning because I am concerned with who is assigned to set these time constraint and combatant standards, the President, Secretary of Defense? We have given the Department of Homeland Security more power and lost more of our rights to them than they Constitutionally deserve. The spineless members of Congress sure as hell are willing to abdicate all it’s war declaring responsibilities to the Executive branch. And now we are back to the original issue of how these same veterans will be treated by the Veterans Administration when they get home. If we decide to practice torture and that is exactly what waterboarding is PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE (“a threat of imminent death” would fit as described by the author above) then why practice self righteous moral piety when our SONS and DAUGHTERS COME HOME BROKEN PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY AND THE GOVERNMENT DOESN’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THEM. OUR ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES !

    Just as we are losing our moral compass in every day life by living our lives not by societies morals but only by what we feel is right and wrong we are similarly setting the standards of warfare back 100 years. The use of mustard gas, beheadings and crucifixions by the enemy appall us but torture doesn’t. Why do we bother to set politically correct rules of engagement or worry about offending another culture? If you are going to write your own moral right and wrong why stop at a double standard for torture why not go back to the brutality of warfare as it was 3 or 400 year ago? But as you said we have been over all this before…… it started 100 years ago after W.W. 1 and over the past 50 years we have digressed morally as a people.

    • delandreaux

      Well, that’s the first time I’ve been accused of mirroring an administration voice, hang around long enough and you’ll hear nearly everything. I support the Bush administration’s policy on interrogation and I don’t think waterboarding is torture; not in reality and not by the legal definitions contained in the conventions You miss my point, I am unwilling to sacrifice lives for the sake of feckless policy, this administration is. Read the Army Field Manual and ask yourself if those procedures are appropriate to procure information when imminent danger is present. If you have all the time in the world the Army Field Manual is appropriate, you can spend two or three months “setting up” the detainee. If you don’t have two or three months you might as well just kiss the lives good by. Just as we train our folks to resist so do the bad guys, only difference is they know exactly what their preparing for and we don’t.
      The question of morality get’s murky, if waterboarding is immoral what do we call killing innocents with drones?
      Morality is ultimately a set of personal standards and behaviors within the context of how a civil society defines itself. If a civil society is willing to sacrifice lives in the interest of political correctness, and to worry overmuch about protecting the “rights” of those who are our sworn enemies, intent on mayhem I choose to reject those “moral” judgments as inherently immoral.
      I’m not saying roll out the water board at the first hint of resistance, I’m simply saying that as it was utilized and the amount of consideration that went into it’s application that tool should be in the toolbox.
      Or we could elect Hillary and empathize with them!

      • Bob

        Landreaux:

        I thought my opening sentence would perk your ears up. I don’t believe we miss each others point but have a simple disagreement of opinion on procedures. The one thing I have come to respect in our conversations is we listen to each others views without the name calling to achieve points.

        Again you bring up “imminent danger” and again I ask “who decides when the danger is imminent?” You say you don’t advocate “rolling out the water board at the first sign of resistance” but we have no idea how often it is used. We are being asked to give a Carte Blanche approval for a questionable method to supposedly extract information. Do you really expect military personnel or a political bureaucrat who can make election points to sit back and say “I have all the time in the world” so I won’t attempt to see what information this guy can spill? My bet would be they first determine if this guy can give them pertinent information or is he simply some poor foot soldier who don’t know squat and then go get the information reasoning the ends justifying the means time constraints be damned.Lets be perfectly clear here the Army Manual was written with the intent of serving the mission of the Army not with the intent of protecting enemy combatants. As witnessed by HOW OR WHO LOOSELY DEFINES THEM AS COMBATANTS OR TERRORIST. (a “DETAINEE” is someone who’s going to be late because his train is running late not a POW) Tell me if water boarding isn’t a torture then why do it to extract information? Because as I said earlier it is psychological and gives the feeling of “imminent danger” of drowning…….thus torture. I ask you “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies”. (who watches the watchmen?)

        We have given up more and more of our rights in the past 20 years to the government under the pretext of “National Security”. The general rule for any government organization or political leader today is first fool everyone into believing that they are following a national patriotic agenda such as the “Patriot Act”. Then all they have to do is specify that the item or legislation in the budget/bill is for “National Security” purposes and it will be approved. This is how we wind up with hospitals having their own SWAT teams. We have governmental organizations fondling our private parts at airports, monitoring our “E” mail and telephone conversations, launching drone attacks on American civilians the government deems a threat, and generally ignoring the rule of law and Constitutional rights of citizens.
        All under the guise of National Security while enhancing their own power with little or no controlling standards. The truth is all dependent on what the powerful can make it be which leads to corrupt methods corrupt everything they touch.

        Finally MORALITY IS MORE THAN JUST A SET OF PERSONAL STANDARDS AND EMPATHY. It is the code of ethics that make us civilized people not some animals. A set of “PERSONAL STANDARDS” is what the left teaches their children where you get to choose right from wrong for yourself. It is not simply “RIGHTS” we are discussing but what we were taught as children knowing the difference between right and wrong and the “GOLDEN RULE”! You may succeed with your goal in the short term while you accelerate your own loss of values.

        • delandreaux

          Who decides? The people we elect decide whether we are facing imminent danger; elections have consequences. The premise that we’re entitled to every bit of intelligence and information does not recognize the world we live in. There is no Carte Blanche, if you read all of the memorandum regarding enhanced interrogation you are left with a variety of impressions one being that when it came to waterboarding the reality is that the DOJ lawyers were conflicted, they knew that procedure was right on the red line. We do know how many times it was used; it’s well documented.
          You’re correct the Army Field Manuel was written for the Army but it was applied to ALL interrogations regardless of service branch or department. The fact is that it does protect enemy combatants and they know it.
          I don’t disagree with your comments regarding disappearing rights but I draw a line with terrorists and their intentions.
          We will have to agree to disagree with a nod to the idea that sometimes personal decisions regarding morality exceed the accepted standards, I’d like to think that is the case in my case. I’ve gotten in a lot more trouble over the years for exceeding moral standards than the alternative.

          • Bob

            Agree we disagree…..always a pleasure ………..”B”