April 20, 2009

Good thing some bloggers read the memo.

The NYT reports under the headline "Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects":
A footnote to another 2005 Justice Department memo released Thursday said waterboarding was used both more frequently and with a greater volume of water than the C.I.A. rules permitted.

The new information on the number of waterboarding episodes came out over the weekend when a number of bloggers, including Marcy Wheeler of the blog emptywheel, discovered it in the May 30, 2005, [Justice Department] memo.

It seems to me that the mainstream press should have found everything significant in the memos within a few hours. Why is some blogger the one to discover something days later?

75 comments:

rhhardin said...

266, wow. That proves it's harmless if anything does.

SMGalbraith said...

I've defended the use of this technique because I believed it was done only three times and needed on the fear that an imminent or near-imminent attack was forthcoming. The necessity defense, if you will.

But to repeatedly use this ugly technique this many times is simply, flat out irresponsible.

This is torture.

Not acceptable.

Heads need to roll dammit.

Jason said...

Maybe they weren't doing it right.

Jason said...

I looked at the memo. I wasn't surprised they wound up doing it so much. The technique described wasn't really waterboarding. It was closer to Chinese water torture.

The problem with Chinese water torture is that half an hour after you're done, you feel sadistic all over again.

AlphaLiberal said...

No surprise here. Most reporters are lazy. Some are dumb.

The surprise is that bloggers got any credit whatsoever.

And, that they would waterboard one person that many times. Ya gotta think after the first, oh, 2 dozen times, someone would say "Ya know, this waterboarding doesn't seem to be working."

EnigmatiCore said...

It was used on two suspects, and this somehow means it was used more frequently than thought?

SMGalbraith said...

It was used on two suspects, and this somehow means it was used more frequently than thought?
The reports were that it was used three times total on three suspects of high value to prevent imminent or near-imminent attacks.

That's defensible. A sort of national necessity defense.

But 183 and 88 times on two individuals? That's something like 3-4 times a day.

To me - unless something completely new is revealed - that goes from a level of urgent need and careful use to a level of abuse and carelessness.

How anyone can state that that level of waterboarding isn't torture mystifies me.

m00se said...

Sorry, missing the point here.

Are you saying they waterboarded too much, too little, or that people don't read things very carefully?

Please clarify...

Roost on the Moon said...

I bet if we took someone who says waterboarding is not torture, we could make them confess that it truly is, by waterboarding them up to 183 times.

False confession or a true change of heart? Damning either way.

Bissage said...

The world is a funny place.

For example, we know that waterboarding was used 266 times on two suspects but we’ll never know why the NYT granted Marcy Wheeler a personal mention and a link to her blog.

What about the other, unidentified, bloggers -- “a number of bloggers” -- who are just as deserving?

They end up stranded as second class citizens on Gilligan’s Island!

. . . the movie star, and the rest . . .

Heck, they found a way to wedge the Professor and Mary Ann into the theme song.

Why not the "other bloggers?"

Unfair!!!

m00se said...

...and not to put too fine a point on it, but isn't torture supposed to be torturous? I'd like to see the report on that individual's condition today. It'd probably answer the quesitons regarding the cruelty and inhumanity of the technique.

rhhardin said...

I always decline novacaine, to torture my dentist.

Palladian said...

"I'd like to see the report on that individual's condition today."

Their hair is probably clean.

hdhouse said...

m00se said...
...and not to put too fine a point on it, but isn't torture supposed to be torturous?"

true M00se however we weren't torturing people remember?

Hoosier Daddy said...

Nick Berg was unavailable for comment.

Bart DePalma said...

Ann:

It is possible that the NY Times reviewed a highly redacted version of the Bradbury memo at the ACLU site, as I did, that had this information redacted.

Peter V. Bella said...

Bloggers- both sides of the political spectrum- have dug up nuggets of gold so called reporters miss. Reporters are lazy, incompetent, and incredibly sloppy. Unless of course they are editorialists. That job is reserved for true morons.

AlphaLiberal said...

Also, the NYT, in particular, has used TalkingPointsMemo scoops on numerous occasions without crediting them.

As far as the ridiculous amount of torture here, it seems pretty clear the interest was not in getting information but just ol' fashioned sadism.

David said...

What this tells me is that Waterboarding may not be as effective as we have been lead to believe. If you do something to someone 100 times, just how much can you rely on the information he gives up on the 101st attempt?

Other possible conclusions:

The captives were a lot more resistant that we thought they would be. (Some accounts implied that they sang like little birds soon after they were captured.)

Waterboarding is not nearly as harmful as it is made out to be.

The New York Times does best with press releases.

Maguro said...

I guess it's not such a fearsome technique after all if a candyass Rosie O'Donnell lookalike like KSM could tolerate it 182 times.

They should've waterboarded him with an Israeli flag doused in fake menstrual blood. That would've done the trick right away.

Original Mike said...

AL said: No surprise here. Most reporters are lazy. Some are dumb.Ain't that the truth!

hdhouse said...

Duhhh perhaps the lesson here is that torture, as has been widely reported for years, DOES NOT WORK and is NOT EFFECTIVE.

does it make people afraid of capture? ya'betcha. do we get useful information? no. the CIA says we don't. experts say we don't. yet we do.

And to all you who bash the NYT for "missing it" can I ask where the Washington Times was on this? Does their fax even work? Good God, even FauxNoise missed this one although the really stupid dork on the left was a bit unsure this morning.

mcg said...

Duhhh perhaps the lesson here is that torture, as has been widely reported for years, DOES NOT WORK and is NOT EFFECTIVE.

"This ignorant view of how interrogations are conducted is belied by both experience and common sense. If coercive interrogation had been administered to obtain confessions, one might understand the argument. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), who organized the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, among others, and who has boasted of having beheaded Daniel Pearl, could eventually have felt pressed to provide a false confession. But confessions aren't the point. Intelligence is."

Lem said...

Why is some blogger the one to discover something days later?Because at that time Obama had not decided on whether to prosecute. Now that he decided not to they need to ratchet up the outrage machine a little louder.

Andrew Sullivan was beside himself on Sunday.

tim maguire said...

Good Golly, I actually agree with Alpha Liberal. But I also agree with rhhardin's first post, which AL probably does not agree with.

Form the looks of it, if you don't buckle in the first couple rounds, then you're not gonna. Probably a biofeedback effect kicks in to negate the "sensation of drowning" and after that it's just annoying.

Also surprised the Times gives credit--I bet they steal from blogs all the time but do it quietly. Nice to see them do something right.

mcg said...

Probably a biofeedback effect kicks in to negate the "sensation of drowning" and after that it's just annoying.

Last time I checked, annoyance wasn't torture.

mcg said...

I mean, if it were, we'd get Michael/Jeremy banned from here by appealing to the Geneva Conventions.

Lem said...

Aren’t jurors told sometimes that the number of shots, stabs, punchs or whatever can be used against someone to show heinous depravity?......

That’s the strategy here.

gaywrites said...

"The sentences in the memo containing that information appear to have been redacted from some copies but are visible in others. Initial news reports about the memos in The New York Times and other publications did not include the numbers."

This is the paragraph which immediately follows the paragraph about the numbers being discovered by a blogger. I'm not saying this justifies journalists out there not finding the information, but I am saying it lends some evidence that maybe they aren't all as lazy, incompetent, etc. as some commenting believe they are; at least not in this case.

garage mahal said...

The NYT reports under the headline "Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects":So 266 ticking time bombs silenced. Excellent!

Lem said...

The obvious flaw in all of this argument is that one side is allowing themselves the luxury of selectively publishing de-classified information that helps their cause – going after the former administration.

While the other side is still operating under the illusion that things that are classified will remain classified.

Lem said...

Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” Genesis 18:32

If you watched Hayden on Sunday you saw a guy who obviously wanted to defend the program on the merits but could not to the extent he could because it’s classified.

Did waterboard help or not? In order to show that you would have declassify the whole dam thing. Going after Bush and Chaney (the holy grail) is so important I predict that is exactly what is going to happen.

Jon said...

266 times seems excessive.

But there are excesses in every just war, and despite the "dark chapter in our history" rhetoric, by historical standards those of the Bush administration were very small potatoes.

If history can forgive liberal icon FDR for incinerating tens of thousands of women and children in the firebombing of Dresden, and imprisoning more than 100,000 American citizens for being of suspect ethnicity, it can forgive Bush for waterboarding a handful of terrorists.

Jon said...

266 times seems excessive.

But there are excesses in every just war, and despite the "dark chapter in our history" rhetoric, by historical standards those of the Bush administration were very small potatoes.

If history can forgive liberal icon FDR for incinerating tens of thousands of women and children in the firebombing of Dresden, and imprisoning more than 100,000 American citizens for being of suspect ethnicity, it can forgive Bush for waterboarding a handful of terrorists.

SMGalbraith said...

If history can forgive liberal icon FDR for incinerating tens of thousands of women and children in the firebombing
Well, FDR was forgiven for the bombings but not the internment.

Second, there was a plausible rationale or defense for FDR's actions at the time.

I don't see any plausible defense of this type of excessive waterboarding.

Remember that the argument - one that I think was tenable - was that waterboarding was done with careful standards on three important terrorists to prevent an imminent or near-imminent attack.

I can't see how 188 and 83 sessions constitutes judicious and careful use of the technique although I guess it could be a defense of the imminence concern.

More important, I think this level of interrogation broke the law. FDR's actions, at the time, violated no US laws.

Lem said...

In order to defend the administration you have to go back in time for a glimpse of the environment, if you will, that produced the program. Lets take a look at Andrew Sullivan for example.............................

Since Sept. 11, the British journalist has declared himself the mullah of the media world, sitting in judgment of American writers' patriotism..............

Since the horrors of Sept. 11, however, Sullivan's voice has become a shriek, hitting an ear-piercing decibel that, whether intended or not, drives out the possibility of rational discussion.
In recent weeks, Sullivan has taken it upon himself to evaluate whether his fellow writers and commentators are sufficiently patriotic. He broods darkly -- in the pages of his native British press, on his Web site and on the Op-Ed pages of the Wall Street Journal -- that America harbors nests of traitors, or in his words "decadent left enclaves on the coasts [that] may well mount a fifth column." And like all Manichaean guardians of national security, from the days of the Alien and Sedition Acts to those of Joseph McCarthy, Sullivan has turned his pumped-up and disproportionate rhetoric toward rooting out these disloyal Americans in his midst.
................................

Andrew’s blog from those days is conveniently archived.

PatCA said...

Hayden was great on defending the program. Transcript.

The real question is, why were the memos released when the techniques were already forbidden? Even Panetta objected.

I think the Dems want another Church Commission ruling, and I fear they will get it. They are shortening the historical cycles: economic boom, then bust (4% interest rates). Ignore the terrorists, suffer an attack.

Rinse, repeat. All in the first 100 days.

Lem said...

Hayden was great on defending the program.He was, but on the question of wether the program saved lives he could not go into details and numbers.

Lem said...

It should be clear now to everyone why Panetta was put there.
Someone with NSA gravitas would have threatened to resign at the very least.

Peter V. Bella said...

"Also, the NYT, in particular, has used TalkingPointsMemo scoops on numerous occasions without crediting them.

As far as the ridiculous amount of torture here, it seems pretty clear the interest was not in getting information but just ol' fashioned sadism.
"


More silliness and comedy from the mighty fighting liberal. Hee Hee, hah, hah. Maybe someday you can get a show of your own; you know like Olbermann, Stewart, Colbert? Just keep polishing your delivery and timing. Timing is everything in comedy.

Peter V. Bella said...

FDR interred American citizens in labor camps and they put a statue of him in the Mall. JFK and his brother, RFK were serial civil rights and civil liberties violators. They are sainted. LBJ took their programs even farther and violated the rights of dissenters. He is reverred for creating the Great Society(throw up now).



This country's lefties love its their tyrants and dictators.

EnigmatiCore said...

"But 183 and 88 times on two individuals? That's something like 3-4 times a day."

On two or three suspects.

I really don't have a problem with this, at all. Sounds like it was reserved for a very small handful of people where there was a very credible reason to believe they had information that could save American lives, and that this was not being done as a routine interrogation practice.

Frankly, I am almost shocked at how limited the scale here was.

MikeinSC said...

266 times?

This does sound like some kind of charges should be filed.

SMGalbraith said...

I was always under the belief that these techniques led to the person breaking within 10-30 seconds and that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, to everyone's amazement, withstood it for a full minute or two before succumbing.

So, why the need for the 183 and 88 efforts (I won't call them sessions since, apparently, several "pourings" were done during one session}?

Something doesn't make sense.

EnigmatiCore said...

"I was always under the belief that these techniques led to the person breaking within 10-30 seconds"

Perhaps this belief was what didn't make sense?

Crimso said...

"Did waterboard help or not? In order to show that you would have declassify the whole dam thing."

Or you could just Google "Kiriakou."

SMGalbraith said...

Perhaps this belief was what didn't make sense?
Since the belief was based on the statements by people who actually underwent waterboarding (SERE, anecdotally Hitchens), it made sense.

And still does unless someone who underwent waterboarding states otherwise.

Roost on the Moon said...

For those with netflix accounts, Errol Morris's Standard Operating Procedure (short interview / youtube clips here) is now available to view online in its entirety.

Revenant said...

An emailer to The Corner argues that the bloggers got it wrong, and that the CIA didn't necessarily violate the operating guidelines.

Roost on the Moon said...

So much worse for the guidelines, then.

They "got it wrong" in the sense that they were counting instances of restricted breathing instead of the (many) sessions in which prisoners were tied down with their airways restricted?

I see, it's like Old Country Buffet; all you can choke. All you can tie to table and fucking choke.

dick said...

Do we know for sure when this info was put in the memo and was unredacted. It should be checked out before this gets totally out of hand as to whether this is indeed part of the original memo at all. It might have been and then I would not favor it. It might have been added and then released and nobody checked it out (with this admin I would not discard that option without more research). Who was the original source before the bloggers that relased this additional info?

bagoh20 said...

There is simply too much information missing from this story to understand anything. Not that we will let that interfere with our strong well reasoned opinions. Information could have been given up quickly and they simply kept trying to get more. Or they were just enjoying it. No way to tell yet. It does seem pretty clear that water boarding is not dangerous or boring.

Joe said...

I call bullshit on this story. The numbers simply make no sense.

From the story: "The 2005 memo also says that the C.I.A. used waterboarding 183 times in March 2003"

Six times a day? Nonsense, especially since Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured March 1, 2003 which would push the incidents per day even higher given the logistics of moving him.

Revenant said...

They "got it wrong" in the sense that they were counting instances of restricted breathing instead of the (many) sessions in which prisoners were tied down with their airways restricted?

The question I was addressing is whether the guidelines were violated, not whether the guidelines were morally acceptable.

I've already explained in earlier posts that the question of whether or not we were sufficiently nice to the subjects of interrogation is not one which interests me. But if the CIA is violating their orders then that's a problem.

SMGalbraith said...

Six times a day? Nonsense, especially since Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured March 1, 2003 which would push the incidents per day even higher given the logistics of moving him.
The explanation - or one of them - is that these were not five or six separate sessions each day but one session where water was poured over KSM several times in one sitting or session.

Which still confuses me because the record (ABC's report) seemed to say that he broke after a single two minute session.

Quote (ABC):
According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confessSo, why the repeated pourings?

Revenant said...

So, why the repeated pourings?

CBS's sources probably got it wrong. That's one of the many problems with anonymous sources; for all we know, the reporter heard that from some dude he met at a bar.

Another possibility is that the KSM regularly reasserted his resistance to interrogation and had to be "broken" all over again.

mcg said...

From Drudge:Cheney Calls For More CIA Reports To Be Declassified
Mon Apr 20 2009 16:20:53 ET

Eric said...

CBS's sources probably got it wrong. That's one of the many problems with anonymous sources; for all we know, the reporter heard that from some dude he met at a bar.

Or they were deliberately misled. I'm curious whether they ever follow up on a source that dupes them.

mcg said...

Maybe CBS tortured its anonymous source, so he said what he did to take the heat off.

mcg said...

Argue torture is wrong. Argue that some of these coercive intelligence methods constitute torture. But to argue torture "doesn't work" contradicts history, it would seem.

hdhouse said...

mcg...how so? are you going back to peter the great when he tortured by pouring hot lead into an ear?...what? when? where?

EnigmatiCore said...

hdhouse--

Stipulated- I don't want anyone in our government or armed forces pouring molten lead in anyone's ear.

That out of the way-- given that doing so is not a very nice thing to do, do you have evidence that having done so resulted in a net negative consequence for Peter the Great? Did doing so give him only false information from those desperate to say anything to avoid such a horror, or did he get good info from people who knew things under that threat and did word get out that had a deterrent effect so that plots were stymied before ever being formulated?

I mean, your argument to mcg seems to amount to "you say it worked? It was awful!" But awfulness does not preclude effectiveness, at least as far as the real world is concerned.

Maybe you and Montana Urban Legend can work this through?

mcg said...

mcg...how so? are you going back to peter the great when he tortured by pouring hot lead into an ear?...what? when? where?Did you even read the link? Your answer is there.

Besides, Cheney is now calling for more memos to be released, so we don't even have to go back further than, oh, him.

Again, you can say that torture is something we just shouldn't do, under any circumstances whatsoever, or perhaps only in circumstances more dire than we faced. While you're at it you can argue that some of the coercive techniques that don't qualify for torture ought to be tabled as well.

Those are good arguments to make, but to also say that these techniques don't produce actionable intelligence just don't stand up to the facts. That might be in part because you're confusing the search for confessions with the search for information; the latter includes strategies for verifying the compliance of the one being interrogated.

Revenant said...

If someone argues that torture doesn't work, ask them "would you support using torture if it DID work?". If they say "no", then what's the point in discussing whether or not torture works? They aren't interested in whether or not it works; they're just wasting your time. You can prove them wrong and they won't budge an inch.

AlphaLiberal said...

This snark via TPM, is priceless:

"If only Saddam Hussein had been smart enough to solicit a legal opinion from his government lawyers that gassing people was within the law, he could have been playing golf in Myrtle Beach right now."

Clearly, we need a matrix to see what torture methods Saddam used vs Bush's torture methods. That way we know what torture is bad and what torture is excusable.

Revenant said...

Hussein was executed for being a despised former dictator. The law was a convenient cover for that.

mcg said...

Incidentally, if torture is a truly immoral act that should either be condoned under true ticking-time-bomb conditions or not at all; and if waterboarding is truly torture; then there is absolutely no justification for its inclusion in SERE training. The practice should be stopped immediately and those who have been responsible for its inclusion should be prosecuted.

I do hope that those who have been beating the drum loudly on this one will join me in calling for throwing those military torturers in jail post haste.

mcg said...

Revenant, your 10:18 post is spot on, and since more evidence is surfacing that these interrogation methods were effective, that line of argument is rapidly losing credibility. Not that that will stop it.

AlphaLiberal said...

Wow. The Bush-Cheney Administration adopted torture techniques from the Communist Chinese.

ExemplifYing the disturbing nature and substance ofthe training, the SERE
instructors explained "Biderman's Principles" - which were based on coercive methods used by the Chinese Communist dictatorship to elicit false confessions from U.S. POWs during the Korean War
What could possibly go wrong?

PDF of new Senate Armed Services Report.

p.s. You guys are familiar with the term "torture apologist," yes? Because you're living it.

AlphaLiberal said...

mcg trots out this old tired canard...

nd if waterboarding is truly torture; then there is absolutely no justification for its inclusion in SERE training.a) Apples and oranges
b) People in SERE training are in a situation where they have trust in those doing it.
c) The voluntarily signed up for it.
d) They don't have the unknown of what will happen to them.
e) They are not locked in a cage.

The amount of terror is way less.

Not at all the same. You're making excuses. Torture has been considered immoral for a long, long time.

And the ticking bomb scenario is from TV shows. Fiction. Not real.

mcg said...

Hitchens voluntarily had himself waterboarded, and as a result of his experiences he was certain it was torture. Assent doesn't change that. If it's an immoral thing to do to another person under any circumstances, that includes assent.

mcg said...

And yes, frankly, I do believe it is acceptable for us to have waterboarded these two scumbags 266 times.So there you go.

Now I won't be surprised if you trot out the line "yea, but mcg condones torture so he has no credibility line" every time you're losing an argument to me, so be it.

mcg said...

I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past, but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.

Who said that? Cheney? Bush? Me?

No, Obama's own DNI. Of course, Obama didn't want you to know that.

mcg said...

AL and others here insist that the coercive interrogation methods that KSM and others endured was compulsory---that is, there was no way they could have avoided it. And that somehow distinguishes it from SERE training.

Well, it's true that those who undergo SERE training can pull out at any time. In fact they have a special code phrase they use that immediately ends the exercise if they can't stand it.

Guess what? KSM had such a code phrase too. You know what it was? "I'll talk."

AlphaLiberal said...

Hey, guess what, torture lovers. Turns out that the SERE program which you guys use to justify torture actually described the Bush-Cheney program as "torture."

The military agency that provided advice on harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as "torture" in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon's chief lawyer and warned that it would produce "unreliable information." .

Please stop telling us about SERE now as SERE says this was torture.

"The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel," says the document, an unsigned two-page attachment to a memo by the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency. .

Joint Personnel Recovery Agency runs the SERE program. And SERE said it was torture.