Weighing in on Waterboarding
Over the past few days, the media has been watching politicians banter about the classification of waterboarding as torture. Is it or isn’t it? Of the 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann support the policy, while Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul dissent from their counterparts. Senator McCain also weighed in as a former POW, vehemently opposing the outdated practice. President Obama calls it unequivocally wrong and un-American. Albeit, the United States continues to order waterboarding through extraordinary rendition. Popularized during the Spanish Inquisition, tormenta de toca has been used as a torture method more recently placed under the milder heading of enhanced interrogation.
Although the overwhelming arc of this debate is if torture should be used by the U.S. military at all, I would argue that there is a bigger point to be made. It does not work. Whether you believe terrorists have human rights after committing despicable acts is irrelevant. Why bother implementing a technique, which does not produce accurate results? If a human being is masked and essentially slow-motion drowned, at some point - almost all - will tell the interrogator whatever he wants to hear. There is no point unless one is looking for a scapegoat confession. When CIA officials underwent waterboarding themselves for training, they lasted an average fourteen seconds before begging for mercy. Quick confessions are not synonymous with truthful information, especially if the technique is being used in conjunction with sleep deprivation, stress positions, and bouts of cold.
In a 2007 study, sponsored by the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Field Activity, researchers found “inducing stress, fatigue, distraction, and intoxication — have the potential to affect not only a source’s motivation to provide accurate, useful information, but also his capacity to do so.” Furthermore, “U.S. personnel have used a limited number of interrogation techniques over the past half-century, but virtually none of them — or their underlying assumptions — are based on scientific research or have even been subjected to scientific or systematic inquiry or evaluation.”Continued on the next page