Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A leader of the CIA team that captured the first major al Qaeda figure, Abu Zubaydah, says subjecting him to waterboarding was torture but necessary. In the first public comment by any CIA officer involved in handling high-value al Qaeda targets, John Kiriakou, now retired, said the technique broke Zubaydah in less than 35 seconds. "The next day, he told his interrogator that Allah had visited him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate," said Kiriakou in an interview to be broadcast tonight on ABC News' "World News With Charles Gibson" and "Nightline." "From that day on, he answered every question," Kiriakou said. "The threat information he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks." FULL STORY

DOZENS OF ATTACKS. That should stick with you. Waterboarding one person thwarted dozens of attacks, saving how many lives? Hundreds? Perhaps thousands? And yet there are people out there who say it isn't worth it. Rest assured, if their home town or their building was targeted the attitude on waterboarding would change.

I'm glad to see someone from the CIA come out with statements on how effective this technique is. I'm all for it as an interrogation measure. I don't agree that it is torture, but I do agree that it is absolutely necessary as a last resort, and that it saves lives.


Dan Trabue said...

So let me be clear: You think the ends justify the means?

Did you know that this same CIA officer went on to call waterboarding in no uncertain terms, "torture" and say that it is wrong?

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A former CIA agent who participated in interrogations of terror suspects said Tuesday that the controversial interrogation technique of "waterboarding" has saved lives, but he considers the method torture and now opposes its use...

Kiriakou conceded his position might be hypocritical and said that the technique was useful -- even if he wanted to distance himself from it.

"Waterboarding was an important technique, and some of these other techniques were important in collecting the information," he said. "But I personally didn't want to do it. I didn't think it was right in the long run, and I didn't want to be associated with it."


For the record, I disagree strongly with the notion that the ends justify the means. It is, after all, the same philosophy that allows terrorists to kill innocents.

No, thank you.

I wonder, if you DO believe that, what limits do you place on the Means to get your desired Ends? Are there any ethics involved or is it more of a Might makes Right kind of thing?

That's meant as a question, not an accusation.

Dan Trabue said...

Or, let's put it another way.

John, because of the resounding moral fiber displayed in your book, you have been placed in charge of Homeland Security.

What rules do you put in place in regards to torture? Is it banned wholly? What is and isn't acceptable under your leadership?

Can they waterboard a suspect but only if your people are somehow sure he knows something that will save lives? How about if your people have a hunch that he has info that will save lives - then is waterboarding okay? What if they don't know for sure... but, hey, he MIGHT know something helpful?

And if waterboarding is okay - AS LONG AS IT SAVES LIVES! - well, how about cutting off people's fingers? Their ears? What if we drag in the 5-year-old child of a captive and cut off HIS fingers, one by one, until the captive talks? AS LONG AS IT SAVES LIVES, is it okay?

What are your rules?

Or do you think you'd be right to be above rules? And if so, what if the American citizenry disagreed - would it still be okay?

Where do you draw the line? People would want to know.

Kristina said...

I just don't consider waterboarding torture.

Dan Trabue said...

This CIA expert - someone who's engaged in it and had it done to them - disagree.

Kristina said...

How do you know I haven't engaged in it or had it done to me? Or that someone I know hasn't? I'll tell you now that I haven't, but that I may know someone who has. Since the people that I am speaking about cannot disclose whether or not they have I don't know if any of them have actually done this/had this done to them, I can only tell you that in asking all of them whether or not they think it is torture, they have ALL said no. Yes, they are all special forces, so maybe as comment previously in another post, they are tough and can handle things that "normal" human beings can't. However, we do perform this on our soldiers that are not special forces. So, that argument doesn't hold up.

But, seriously, you're quoting ONE person. ONE CIA agent thinks that what he did was torture. Did you talk to any CIA agents that DON'T think it is torture? If the media spoke to them, I'm betting that they either refused to talk about it (because they're not supposed to!) or weren't quoted because it wasn't what the media wanted to report.

Dan Trabue said...

I think it torture because I've seen it described and it fits the definition of torture ("the act of inflicting excruciating pain")

Further, the Convention against Torture (codified as US law) defines torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession…." (Art. 1). It may be "inflicted by or at the instigation of or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

Waterboarding does inflict pain and suffering. Therefore, it seems to fit the definition of torture, based on a basic understanding of the English language.

Again I ask, how would folk here define torture? What would and wouldn't be off-limits.

BB-Idaho said...

..if anyone should knows it is John McCain.

Dan Trabue said...

The thing is, John and anyone else who supports torture, you seem to think that our unwillingess to use torture is a sign of weakness.

I think the majority of the US thinks that the willingness to embrace torture is a sign of weakness. At least, that's what I think.

The Loop Garoo Kid said...

Water boarding is drowning. Drowning someone is torture. The fact that we subject our own troops to it as part of a training regimin does mean that it is not torture.

Today I read, from a source I do not consider reliable, that Abu Zubayah was by no means a major player but a low ranking flunky who greatly exaggerated his own importance, and who, once subjected to persuasive methods of interrogation began fabricating facts. Whta are the real facts about this guy?

Whether the ends justify the means is one debate. But one thing that has been common knowledge from the Spanish Inquisition and on is that someone being subjected to torture will ultimately say anything to make the torture stop.


John Washburn said...

Dan, you do not have any right to make the statement that I support torture. Not once have I advocated torture and I don't appreciate the accusation. I support waterboarding and I don't feel it is torture. You do. But that does not allow you to apply your definition on my principles. You are advocating responsible population control in another post, but I don't call you a "baby killer" for doing so. Let's be fair here.

And I don't feel any particular number of people on this planet will change my mind about population control. Do you have a number in mind? Whether there are 5 billion people or 50 billion, gov't regulated population control is a violation of a fundamental and natural human right. At NO point will I endorse it.

As far as waterboarding, I accept the definition of torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession…." I agree. Water boarding does not inflict pain, nor does it equate to drowning. I DO know someone who was subjected to it and they don't feel it was torture in that no pain was inflicted, only fear and frustration. This person considered it a very harsh and effective interrogation technique.

We have a fundamental disagreement. Because I don't feel it is torture I don't have a problem with US operatives utilizing it. And believe me, there are MANY out there who advocate it. So your "ends justifies the means" accusation doesn't apply because I don't feel it is torture, therefore the means do not need to be justified.

And I find it interesting that you denounce "the end justifies the means" but then talk about population control for the purpose of saving the planet. Are you not guilty of what you denounce?

Dan, would you support waterboarding to thwart an attack in your home town?

Loop, the argument that waterboarding is not effective because it yields bad information is simply not accurate. The whole point of this post was that waterboarding one person for 30 seconds thwarted DOZENS of attacks.

Dan Trabue said...

I apologize for the inference that you support torture. I meant to ask those who support what this fella you quoted calls torture where they draw the line.

I still ask that question. What's acceptable and what's not - where do you draw the line?

No, I would not support (what I consider to be) torture of any kind even supposing it might somehow possibly lead to information that might possibly save my very home.

I will be clear: IF I were told that at some point, someone will attack my children with the intent to kill them, and then they add that IF we torture this person over here who might have knowledge of how to stop it, the attack might be prevented, I would stand opposed to legalizing torture. Waterboarding included.

I don't have that kind of faith in gov't to trust them to break laws. I think that breaking torture laws makes us less secure, not more secure. I question the results of information gained under torture.

Is that clear?

Now, will you answer my questions - I'm glad to hear that you DON'T accept torture as a legitimate legalized approach our gov't should be involved in. Does that mean that you would not support other forms of interrogation that are more clearly torture? You would be opposed to cutting people's fingers off EVEN IF it saved lives?

I'm hearing that it sounds like you would. I'm glad to hear that and, if I'm understanding you correctly now, then I do deeply apologize for suggesting you think torture is justified even if it saves lives.

But I would appreciate a clarification.

Dan Trabue said...

Do you have a number in mind? Whether there are 5 billion people or 50 billion, gov't regulated population control is a violation of a fundamental and natural human right. At NO point will I endorse it.

Even if it is leading to mass starvation and wars you wouldn't support policies that encourage (not demand) having fewer children?

I wonder: Do you support gov't policies that discourage driving 100mph, even if it is an infringement of your right to drive as fast as you want?

What about policies discouraging driving that fast in a school zone? I'm relatively sure that you'd agree that people would be right to place those sorts of speed limits. And why? Because your freedom to drive fast has an impact upon the safety of others.

"The World's" freedom to have as many children as we want also has an impact upon the health and safety of others.


Here's Two Cents Worth:

This World Has Doubled In Population In My Lifetime;

China & India a billion each, and they
are now the BIG polluters.
Are these nations concerned?

The Kill-Culture of Islam has 1.2
Billion. Oh sure, now tell me some are "moderates". I am concerned with the Radical Leadership of that Lunacy, and those that immigrate here, to spread their corrosive poison.

And we worry about Mormonism, or Abortion, or "Second-hand Tobacco Smoke. Trivia!"!

This Planet has limited acres to
grow food; Our vast ocean's supply
of edible fish is dwindling. Massive starvation is a real possibility.

...and we worry & fret about theoretical Global Warming, or the ethics of Water-boarding Lunatics that are bent on destroying first Israel, then the "Great Satan", the most "ethical" of all > the USA.

So, we twiddle thumbs & nit-pick about defining water-boarding techniques, and where we draw the line. Good grief! The Grand Ayatollahs are chuckling in their beards, and Our people Are Dying Every Day In A War-zone, and we nitzy-pic about trivia. Get Real, folks. Your priorities are goofy!

United We Stand, Against Radical Islam, Or We Expire. reb

John Washburn said...

I accept your definition of torture, and that is where I would draw the line...at least when it comes to gov't sanctioned interrogation. And since water boarding does not inflict "severe pain and suffering" (based on people I have spoken with personally who have endured this technique) I do not think it is torture. The key word in your definition is "severe". There is no pain in water boarding. There is no suffering. There is no drowning. You can't drown from water boarding any more than you can drown while taking a shower. As I said, there is fear and frustration, but that doesn't amount to "severe pain and suffering". Cutting someone's finger off DOES constitute severe pain and suffering and therefore is clearly torture and should not be endorsed by a democratic government.

Obviously, this definition is rather elastic (especially the "mental" part, this can be loosely defined by anyone, being forced to listen to Yoko Ono music could be considered severe mental suffering by some) but it's probably the best we can do at defining torture. So I accept your definition. That's not where we disagree. We disagree on whether water boarding constitutes severe pain and suffering. I don't think it does. You do. Neither of us will be convinced to accept the other's position.

I disagree with your contention that torture makes us less secure. Our enemies do not honor the Geneva Convention and they never will. Our enemies will do inhumane and incomprehensible things to our troops regardless of the position our government takes on torture. Do you honestly believe that closing Gitmo, releasing the prisoners, and ending all harsh interrogation will make us MORE secure? Our enemies are vile and evil. Their behavior is not determined by our treatment of prisoners.

To be clear - I would NOT support population control under ANY circumstance. It is a violation of Constitutional law, and a violation of simple natural law. Population control is socialistic and authoritarian in every sense. Obviously, as a human being and a responsible citizen and parent, if I were in the midst of a famine I would not have a child. That would be a personal decision, free from governmental interference and born from my love of my children. Therein lies the difference. If you want to encourage people to reproduce at a slower rate, then fine, encourage away. But the line is crossed when the gov't gets involved IN ANY WAY, whether it is by taxation or by the radical methods of the communists.

I don't see the metaphor with speed limits. I don't think it fits. You're talking about common law. I'm talking about a fundamental right, the right to reproduce given by God, or nature, or whatever you believe. I don't think speed limits and having children are on the same level. I think a better comparison would be something in the realm of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, like choosing your career.

So, suppose we were in the midst of a massive teacher shortage. Our education system was threatened. Would you support the gov't coming in the high school classrooms and basically forcing a certain percentage of students to be teachers? You know, for the good of society and all. I think that's more on the same level. I would not support this UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES because I adamantly oppose socialistic authoritarian governmental power. That's what I see anytime "population control" comes up.

Dan Trabue said...

No, I would not support the forcing of students to be teachers. Nor would I force the limitation of families. As I have said.

BUT, I would support gov't incentives to have more teachers if we thought that were a good thing.

AND, I would support gov't incentives to have fewer children if we, the people, thought it a good thing.

You're confusing my support of gov't incentives and policies to encourage certain behaviors/results with gov't authoritarianism demanding smaller families. No one here has advocated that and I, for one, have spoken out against it.

Glad to know that you don't support torture. So then, if the People decided that waterboarding fit under the definition of torture, you'd support the People's decision and not some rogue gov't agency deciding what is and isn't torture?

That's a good thing. I think that's where we're at today. According to polls, most American citizens think it IS torture. Hopefully our leaders will soon follow our people and recognize this and implement it as policy, as well.

Dan Trabue said...

As to Snake's comment, I for one think it entirely appropriate that we "nit-pick" about what is and isn't torture. And the terrorists would love for us to stoop to their level and start abandoning our values and opposition to things like torture and civil liberties.

I don't think torture discussions are "nit-picky" at all. You do?

Dan Trabue said...

That should say, of course, "SUPPORT OF civil liberties..."

The Loop Garoo Kid said...


If I recall correctly, at least one of the people you know who underwent waterboarding was your father, a green beret, at the time, I think. Giving his training, I think a better source might be available upon which to formulate such an opinion as to whetehr waterborading is torture.

For him, it may be relative. Think of fast NFL backs who are able to run away from linebackers. That doesn't mean the linebackers are slow. I mean, I am quite certain what would happen if I tried to run away from one.

Now, I request that you educate me. I was under the impression that waterboarding basically consists of pouring water into one breathing passage while blocking the other and if continued will result in drowning. Is that wrong? If so, I may change my opinion.

Meanwhile, I will stand by the supposition that torture may or may not beget accurate information as at some point the victim will say anything if he or she thinks that by doing so, the torture will stop.

Population control is an interesting issue. The most recent massive governmental policy that we have seen is China's one child policy. Whereas there was no doubt as to either its necessity or desirability, there have been unintended consequences. The most notorious involve forced abortion and female infanticide, but the subtler ones are more interesting.

Chinese children are spoiled rotten for the most part. Imagine an entire nation of only children and you will glimpse what I mean.

On the other hand, "Obviously, as a human being and a responsible citizen and parent, in the midst of a famine, I would not have a child."

I suggest you look outside your own experience. Survival of the family and the tribe is a very compelling motivator. I suspect strongly that in famine prone areas, infant and child mortality is much higher than it is in Oklahoma or Colorado. Therefore, w/ the knowledge that some of your children are not going to survive, I think the impetus would be to have as many children as possible so as to insure the survival of your family, your clan, or your tribe.

In addition, American families have grown smaller, in part, as we have transitioned form an agrarian society to an industrial one. In agragrian societies, having more children is desirable particularly in areas in which farming is labor intensive and not mechanized.

The enforcement of the one child policy in China is not as stringent in rural farming areas as it is in cities.