Monday, April 20, 2009

Instructions for waterboarding

Apparently, the Bush administration's instructions for waterboarding went something like this:
- strap subject into an inclined gurney and apply face cloth,
- rinse
- repeat as needed (with the "repeat" part being used more than 200 times for Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed).

Specifically, the Department of Justice described instructions applicable in 2005 as:
Waterboard may be approved for use with a given detainee only during, at most, one single 30-day period, and that during that period, the waterboard technique may be used on no more than five days. We further understand that in any 24-hour period, interrogators may use no more than two "sessions" of the waterboard on a subject--with a "session" defined to mean the time that the detainee is strapped to the waterboard--and that no session may last more than two hours. Moreover, during any session, the number of individual applications of water lasting 10 seconds or longer may not exceed six. As noted above, the maximum length of any application of water is 40 seconds (you have informed us that this maximum has rarely been reached). Finally, the total cumulative time of all applications of whatever length in a 24-hour period may not exceed 12 minutes.
The techniques that were used on Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were likely more severe, with these guidelines being developed in light of that earlier experience.

Many people have argued that waterboarding is not torture because we subject SERE trainees to this procedure. However, the DOJ memo emphasizes the differences between the way the technique was applied in SERE training and the way that it was applied to the detainees. In addition to more frequent applications, the CIA interrogators used greater volumes of water and employed numerous techniques to force detainees to take in water. The CIA's Office of Medical Services concluded that "the SERE waterboard experience is so different from the subsequent Agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant. Consequently, according to the OMS, there was no a priori reason to believe that applying the waterboard with the frequency and intensity with which it was used by the psychologist/interrogators was either efficacious or medically safe."

Of course, your mileage may vary.