CIA Tells Interrogators ‘Waterboard Him Some More’

If you want to know just how disconnected from any sense of reality or morality the CIA became after the Bush administration ordered them to start torturing people, this article should make you cringe as it did me. John McCain recently told the National Journal that at one point interrogators reported that a detainee had been definitively broken and they were told to “waterboard him some more.”

McCain also elaborated on an event that was reported Monday by The Post, noting that officials waterboarding a terror suspect reported to CIA headquarters that they had “gotten everything we can out of the guy.”

“The message came back, ‘Waterboard him some more.’ That is unconscionable,” McCain said.

Katherine Hawkins confirms that story:

McCain’s description matches a 2009 press report about the role of contract psychologists James Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jessen in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. According to the Washington Post, after Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002, “Mitchell and Jessen concluded that the prisoner was broken.” The Counterterrorist Center, then headed by Jose Rodriguez, was not convinced. A former official told the Post that “[h]eadquarters was sending daily harangues, cables, e-mails insisting that waterboarding continue for 30 days because another attack was believed to be imminent…Headquarters said it would be on the team’s back if an attack happened. They said to the interrogation team, ‘You’ve lost your spine.””

The Post’s source said Mitchell and Jessen agreed to waterboard Abu Zubaydah one last time, but insisted that CIA officials come from Langley to the black site to view what happened. Afterwards, “they all agreed to stop.”

A May 30, 2005 Office of Legal Counsel memo by Steven Bradbury also corroborates McCain’s description. The Bradbury memo describes “one occasion” where “although the on-scene interrogation team judged Zubaydah to be compliant elements within CIA headquarters still believed he was withholding information…At the direction of CIA Headquarters therefore used the waterboard one more time on Zubaydah.”

Based on what we know of the chronology of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation, this last waterboarding at the direction of CTC likely would have occurred in mid to late August of 2002. Around the same time, on August 20, 2002, officials at the CIA black site in Thailand sent the first known cable to headquarters recommending that the agency stop taping interrogations, and dispose of existing videotapes. Rodriguez would eventually order the destruction of those same videotapes in 2005.

Despite this history, the Washington Post was happy to give Rodriguez space to declare that torture worked and that the Senate report is wrong even though he hasn’t read it. Jose Rodriguez should be in prison, along with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and everyone else who either approved and ordered it and helped carry it out.

The UN Convention Against Torture, pushed through and advocated around the world by their alleged hero Ronald Reagan, could not be more clear on this. It requires us to prosecute anyone who commands or carries out torture. For the record, here is how that treaty defines torture:

For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means 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, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on

discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

It also explicitly rules out the “we’ll all die if we don’t torture this person” excuse:

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

And it rules out the Nuremberg defense as well:

An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Every single person involved should be in prison and Rodriguez should get one of the longest sentences. The law requires us to prosecute and takes that so seriously that it gives other countries specific jurisdiction to prosecute if we do not (both the Bush and Obama administrations have threatened countries thinking about actually following that law, of course; that’s what American exceptionalism really means).

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  • Gregory in Seattle

    I really would like to live in a civilized country some day.

  • left0ver1under

    For some, it’s not enough to defeat their opponent. Their enjoyment comes by continuing the violence and abuse after the opponent stops fighting back (whether because they give up or because they’re unable to fight).

    The goal isn’t victory, the goal is to display and exert power and force without mercy or decency. It comes in many forms, be it raising flags on others’ territory, organized rape of civilians, enslavement or genocide. And it’s done not just to humiliate the chosen enemy, but to intimidate anyone else who might challenge the aggressor.

  • Michael Heath

    I thought that same U.N. treaty also created criminal culpability for those who had prosecutorial powers but didn’t prosecute those who tortured. I.e., at some point I would think President Obama, AG Holder, and others in the Obama Administration are also complicit.

  • Michael Heath

    I’ve yet to encounter anyone imaginative enough to accurately predict the future insanity, immorality, and incompetence of U.S. conservatives.

    Here’s one scenario based on my post @ 3: A future Republican Administration criminally prosecutes President Obama and senior officials in Obama’s Administration for not prosecuting senior Bush Administrations for their torturing people. Where that future Republican Administration doesn’t prosecute senior Bush Administration officials for their actually ordering and/or doing the torture.

  • The Gregarious Misanthrope

    Virtually no where in the torchlight parade for torture headed by practically all our elected “leadership” post-9/11 was there a discussion about how allowing ourselves to torture people opens up our own military personnel to the same sort of treatment, but now without even the tiniest moral figleaf to hide behind. There was a time when I knew that even if captured and tortured myself, I could at least armor myself mentally that my country was better than that. No more. I could quite well imagine being waterboarded by some foreign power and being reminded that I was not actually being tortured. Thanks a f***ing lot, Uncle Sam!

    I have never understood why we would not have simply called the folks we hauled to Gitmo prisoners of war and told them, quite rightly, that they would be detained until the end of the conflict and that unless al Qaeda surrenderred en masse and threw down its arms, then the conflict would never end. Tell them, again quite correctly, that if they ever wanted to go home and see their families, then they would have to cooperate in order to earn parole.

    You never even have to prove they did anything at all other than fight for the other side to detain them indefinitely. Instead doing the right thing (probably the most effective thing) we have demeaned ourselves, strained relations with out allies, and given our enemies great recruiting material.

  • John Horstman


  • felidae

    Hey, guys , lighten up–Jose Rodriguez just wanted to have a little psychopathic fun while he could. I’m sure he regretted having to burn those tapes, depriving himself of many masturbatory experiences