The CIA IG Report: Is Waterboarding KSM 183 Times Really Effective?

picture-97.thumbnail.pngI think I’ve finally gotten some folks to to pay attention to the OLC Memo revelation that KSM was waterboarded 183 times in a month.

In that post, I suggested that if it took 183 uses of waterboarding to make KSM comply with interrogators wishes, then waterboarding is far less effective than the CIA would like us to believe. It appears the CIA IG was raising the number of times KSM was waterboarded in the same context I am–to question the efficacy of waterboarding someone that many times. 

As I described last night, Steven Bradbury spends four pages of the May 30, 2005 memo trying to prove that enhanced interrogation is effective. He appears to be responding to a six-page passage in the CIA IG Report addressing the efficacy of enhanced interrogation.

I dealt with that section in some detail last night.  But by reconstructing that section best as we can from the fragments Bradbury gives us (see my work below), we see the IG Report was tying the number of times KSM and Abu Zubaydah were waterboarded with its judgment of waterboarding’s (in)efficacy.

Bradbury doesn’t reveal how the IG Report begins the discussion of the efficacy of the enhanced interrogation program. But shortly after the beginning, the IG Report seems to refute claims that individual, high value detainees are the key to collecting information on al Qaeda. It points out that CTC relies on the information from lower-level detainees–presumably collected without enhanced methods since CIA claims it only uses enhanced methods on high value detainees–to round out its understanding of information collected from high value detainees.

CTC frequently uses the information from one detainee, as well as other sources, to vet the information from another detainee. Although lower-level detainees provide less information than the high value detainees, information from these detainees has, on many occasions, supplied the information needed to probe the high value detainees further. … [T]he triangulation of intelligence provides a fuller knowledge of Al-Qa’ida activities than would be possible from a single detainee.

Bradbury leaves out the next part of the IG Report’s discussion. But from there, the IG Report says we can’t conclusively determine whether enhanced interrogations have provided information that has prevented specific attacks (note, the wording of this discussion is very vague, perhaps intentionally so; it could mean any number of things, including that we have zero evidence that torture has prevented attacks, or that we just don’t have evidence one way or another). Then, the IG Report appears to elaborate on this difficulty, noting that, "there is limited data on which to assess their individual effectiveness." Again, this quotation is unclear, but it appears to refer to the effectiveness of one enhanced interrogation method over another. That is, the IG Report appears to be saying it has no way of assessing whether waterboarding is more effective than sleep deprivation than persuasion. Finally, the IG Report admits that enhanced interrogation–or perhaps just waterboarding–is tied to an increase in the number of reports (though it appears to have already dismissed any possibility of assessing the quality of these reports). And it is in that context in which the IG Report discusses the sheer number of times that Abu Zubaydah and KSM were waterboarded. 

In other words, at the tail end of an extended discussion explaining all the reasons we can’t say enhanced interrogation prevented any specific attacks and why it may be a mistake to focus exclusively on individual high value detainees, the IG Report connects the sheer number of reports CIA has gotten when using waterboarding with the sheer number of times it was used on Abu Zubaydah and KSM.

And significantly, 12 pages later the IG Report notes that CIA was using waterboarding more than it had said it had been using it.

Now all of this is obviously very fragmentary, and Bradbury seems to have deliberately obscured the IG Report’s language in key passages. As it happens, though, both the White House and SSCI are in the middle of attempts to assess the efficacy of waterboarding. 

In response to those efforts, the CIA has begun assembling thousands of classified cables that contain daily reports from the agency’s secret prisons, tracking the interrogation methods used on high-value detainees and how much information was obtained as a result.

Let’s hope this inquiry–unlike the memos sent to Steven Bradbury tailored to allow him to claim that torture was effective–do more than track the number of reports gathered under torture. And heck, while they’re at it, perhaps the White House and the SSCI could release this part of the IG Report, which seems to conclude–after having watched thousands of hours of torture videos–that it was not effective.

Sign the petition telling Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate torture here.

As Bradbury notes on page 10 of is memo, the IG Report discusses the efficacy of enhanced interrogation from page 85 though 91. Here are the topics that discussion covers, in order, with the Bradbury description of the reference:

Page 85: No direct reference

Page 86: A description of an increase in intelligence reports attributable to enhanced methods and a discussion arguing that you can’t measure the efficacy of interrogation by pointing to just the reports from one detainee..

See IG Report at 86, 90-91 (describing increase in intelligence reports attributable to use of enhanced techniques). 

According to the CIA Inspector General:

CTC frequently uses the information from one detainee, as well as other sources, to vet the information from another detainee. Although lower-level detainees provide less information than the high value detainees, information from these detainees has, on many occasions, supplied the information needed to probe the high value detainees further. … [T]he triangulation of intelligence provides a fuller knowledge of Al-Qa’ida activities than would be possible from a single detainee.

IG Report at 86.

Page 87: No direct reference

Page 88: A statement that it is difficult to determine whether interrogations have stopped specific attacks.

As the IG Report notes, it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks. See id. at 88.

Page 89: A statement noting that there is limited data on whether enhanced methods are effective (note–Bradbury pitches this as an observation that the techniques were used "sparingly," which from the context appears to be disingenuous).

And, because the CIA has used enhanced techniques sparingly, "there is limited data on which to assess their individual effectiveness." Id at 89.

Page 90: A comment on the increased number of reports tied to enhanced methods, along with a discussion of the number of times Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded.

See IG Report at 86, 90-91 (describing increase in intelligence reports attributable to use of enhanced techniques). 

The CIA used the waterboard "at least 83 times during August 2002" in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.  

Page 91: A comment on the increased number of reports tied to enhanced methods, along with a discussion of the number of times KSM was waterboarded.

See IG Report at 86, 90-91 (describing increase in intelligence reports attributable to use of enhanced techniques). 

The CIA used the waterboard … 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.  

Pages 103 and 104: An observation that waterboarding was used more than initially indicated.

The IG Report noted that in some cases the waterboard was used with far greater frequency than initially indicated, see IG Report at 5, 44, 46, 103-04,

63 replies
  1. behindthefall says:

    Ya know, I have to take off my hat to that guy in the moustache in the picture at the top. I could not have held on to my sanity. At some point (did his torturers want to find out when that point would be?), I would just have said the heck with it and let my mind go.

    • cregan says:

      It is very important for the sake of the truth to note that this article is totally false. And I mean TOTAL. According to the Red Cross report, recently released and posted on the NY Review of Books, and the verbatim interview with both Mr. Z and Mr. KSM, this figure of 266 is totally impossible. TOTALLY. Khalid Sheik Mohammed said, “IN addition, I was subjected to waterboarding on five occasions, all of which occured during that first month.” That is a direct, word for word quote from the report and interview–done in private with only KSM present per the Red Cross. KSM mentions no other times he was waterboarded. The story is very similar for Mr. Z who said one week of waterboarding done once or twice each day with one day of three times. This incident will show you how dishonest and destructive that false information and some bloggers can be. This 266 number was totally fabricated as “showing through the redaction.” Worse, it came from a blogger and the NY Times reporter NEVER cross checked it with the Red Cross report–which was well known. Now, this phony “story” has been spread across the internet. Again, I am going by the exact words of the Red Cross report and investigation. The two gentlemen themselves only claimed to have been waterboarded maybe 10 to 12 times at the most. They certainly did not hold back anything in the rest of their interview, so it is certain what Z and KSM said is what actually happened.

      • dmac says:

        the numbers are from the memos. the ‘blogger’ found the numbers.
        in. the. bush . government. memos.
        not. the . blogger’s. memos.
        government. memos.

        you can go in there and count it up for yourself. lots of reading to get there.

        and what’s the difference between 10 times and 183 times?
        absolutely none. you’re kind of missing the point of that whole argument really. “but i didn’t steal a dozen cookies i only stole 4!!!” it’s still wrong. and they lied about it. now they are caught in the lies they told about their illegal treatment by use of torture to prisoners and family members of those prisoners. everything you said emphasizes that. go look it up in the official memos.

  2. radiofreewill says:

    Well, EW, you are steadily shredding the ‘Torture is Effective’ meme and seem to be headed towards the inescapeable conclusion that there’s an 800-lb gorilla in the room:

    No terrorist plots or attacks were discovered through enhanced interrogations, period.

    In the same way that Bush and Cheney insisted that ‘reports’ showed Iraq had WMDs, and that Our Eyes were Lying to US, what do We get on Torture?

    ‘Reports’ saying that serially suffocating and drowning a person 183 times shows ‘Enhanced Interrogation is effective.’

    • Nell says:

      No, the Inspector General is independent and can start investigations on his/her own initiative. From a Jason Leopold report earlier this year quoting a CIA declaration on January 10, 2008 that was responding to an ACLU motion to hold the CIA in contempt for destroying the videotapes (part of the endless suit overseen by Judge Hellerstein):

      In January 2003, [Office of Inspector General] OIG initiated a special review of the CIA terrorist detention and interrogation program. This review was intended to evaluate CIA detention and interrogation activities, and was not initiated in response to an allegation of wrongdoing. During the course of the special review, OIG was notified of the existence of videotapes of the interrogations of detainees. OIG arranged with the NCS to review the videotapes at the overseas location where they were stored.

      OIG reviewed the videotapes at an overseas covert NCS facility in May 2003. After reviewing the videotapes, OIG did not take custody of the videotapes and they remained in the custody of NCS. Nor did OIG make or retain a copy of the videotapes for its files. At the conclusion of the special review in May 2004, OIG notified DOJ and other relevant oversight authorities of the review’s findings.

      The position is a presidential appointment with Senate confirmation. Goss and Hayden tried to interfere with or seek revenge for Helgerson’s work while they were CIA director.

  3. bobschacht says:

    Thanks, EW, for your continuing work on this. And congrats for all the kudos you’ve been getting about your 183 post yesterday.

    About the speculation that the waterboardings were done in batches–
    ISTM this method doesn’t allow any kind of real assessment of the effectiveness of the last session; its like they already had an agenda to waterboard the prisoner X times that day, regardless of what he said in between. What would be their justification for that?

    Bob in HI

  4. Arbusto says:

    What fun the Dr. Mengeles of the CIA and Contractors must have had; authorized (after the fact I’m sure) to do what they want, just don’t get too creative. Then protected by Obama and Holder and given near hero status. Any hope that Feinstein (Jello Jay in drag) and her ilk on the Senate Intel Committee would hold public hearings or disseminate redacted transcripts from closed door hearings are nearly zero. Demanding Independent Prosecutor; zero chance.

  5. plunger says:

    Rahm Emanuel stated today on the morning show circuit that the administration will not pursue prosecutions of those in the Bush Administration who devised the torture techniques and plans implement by the Bush Administration.

    His claim that the Obama administration has “banned” the use of torture…how does that jibe with the prior Administration’s lie “The United States Doesn’t Torture,” and more importantly, where does this administration get off assuming that its opinions regarding obvious War Crimes reign supreme over the World Court’s mandate to prosecute War Criminal at the Hague?

    The hypocrisy of their position is most evident right here:

    “The Military Commissions Act of 2006, which the President promoted and recently signed into law, provides retroactive immunity for civilians who violated the War Crimes Act, including officials of the Bush Administration. Such an attempt to provide immunity for their crimes, it will be argued, is in itself evidence of an effort to block prosecution of those crimes. Indeed, according to Scott Horton, chair of the International Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association, when Yugoslavia sought to immunize senior government officials, the United States declared the act itself to be evidence of such a conspiracy.”

    To repeat:

    “The United States declared the act itself to be evidence of such a conspiracy.”

    Cheney himself referred to the prisoners at Guantanamo as “Prisoners Of War.” He said it on Larry King Live. The Geneva Conventions DO APPLY, and Obama’s decision in the aftermath to “look only forward” can only be described as part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice. He’s not the King. It’s his job to stand aside and let investigations occur.

    Emanuel claims that this administration is focused on raising the credibility and stature of the US in the minds of others around the world by claiming to ban torture, while actively obstructing investigation and conviction of the War Criminals that ordered the torture and violation of the Geneva Conventions. It’s designed to fool the stupidest among us – but only pisses off the rest of the world, whose opinion he claims to be concerned about.

    • greenwarrior says:

      iirc from the video, he said that by banning torture we’ve enhanced our image in the world. given what we’re talking about, “enhanced” was quite a curious choice of words.

      i followed the link in a previous thread – it’s the first time i’ve really watched rahm. you’ve obviously got a stronger stomach than i do. i appreciate the link very much. would you consider next time giving an approximate time into the clip for the relevant info?

  6. dqueue says:

    Is it possible someone’s desired effect is not actually data extraction, but rather data obliteration?

  7. JohnLopresti says:

    There is what may be an interesting paper posted by a guest (L4?) on the history of a smorgasbord of US tocha spectrum ‘programs’ there. It seems to tie in some of the perspective of various historians in the development of modern US (1950-2009)paradigms of interrogation for the purpose of information elicitation as distinct from criminal prosecution. Splitting the parser pretty fine. Several contributors to vetting the linked project hail from disparate ranges of the political spectrum. Enough to encourage abstinence from psychology as an artform.

  8. Mary says:

    I may be misreading or attaching a very cynical interpretation to some of what is in the memo, but I think there is something else very “at issue” with the efficacy argument and issue and I think it creeps in because of people like Khalid el-Masri who, while not waterboarded may have been subject to other enhanced techniques (and let’s face it – wouldn’t we all like to know how many “reports” were generated by the interrogations of el-Masri, or Arar via their proxy torturers, or KSM’s children?)

    A bit buried in the in 2nd May 10 memo is Bradbury saying, IMO, “oh by the way, everything we said you can do to a *high value detainee specifically tied to the upper echelons of al-Qaeda* you can do to anyone you detain, even on mistake” Which could also be a backhanded way to cover the issue of mistakes about AZ. I think it is also perhaps why he makes a point of referencing the IG report about other, lesser “value” detainees providing some helpful information as well.

    What he does in the second May 10 memo is to say this:

    Finally, in both of our previous opinions about specific techniques, we evaluated the use of those techniques on particular identified individuals. Here, we are asked to address the combinations without reference to any particular detainee. As is relevant here, we know only that an enhanced interrogation technique, such as most of the techniques at issue in Techniques, may be used on a detainee only if medical and psychological personnel have determined that he is not likely; as a result, to experience severe physical or mental pain or suffering, Techniques at 5. Once again; whether other detainees would, in the relevant ways; be like the ones previously at issue, would be [unreadable – maybe “fact”?] question we cannot now decide. Our advice, therefore, does not extend to the use of techniques on detainees unlike those we have ‘previously considered. Moreover, in this regard, it is also especially important, as we pointed out in Techniques with respect to certain techniques, see, e.g., id at 37 (discussing sleep deprivation), that the CIA will carefully assess the condition of each individual detainee and that the CIA’s use of these techniques in combination will be sensitive to the individualized physical condition and reactions of each detainee, so that the regimen of interrogation would be altered or halted, if necessary, in the event of unanticipated effects on a particular detainee.

    emph added
    I guess there are several ways to take this, but I look at the absence of use of the defined term(s) relating to high value detainees or even illegal enemy combatant v. a generic detainee reference and to me this is the “you can torture innocent people too as long as you have a doctor’s pass that they won’t die” part of the opinion that makes it ok for the info about AZ to have been wrong or the mistakes like el-Masri etc. to have been abused. And I tie that to his weird referencing of how they can also get info of use from interrogations of lesser value detainees. I guess I see a pretty evil and insidious aspect of that passage. But I tend to do that a lot these days and it may not really be what I see in it – but what I see in it is an ok to torture any “detainee” as long as you get an ok from the doctors and psychologists – without regard to all those isses of high up, knowledge of impending attack, etc.

    • TheraP says:

      an enhanced interrogation technique, such as most of the techniques at issue in Techniques, may be used on a detainee only if medical and psychological personnel have determined that he is not likely; as a result, to experience severe physical or mental pain or suffering


      1. It has to be signed off by medical/psychological assessment

      2. Such assessment must conclude techniques are “not likely” to cause severe physical or mental pain or suffering.

      3. Of the 4 ways (definition of torture) to cause pain or suffering, #2 is this: “procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.”

      Seems to me that isolation alone leads to profound personality disruption right here in US max security prisons! Add sleep deprivation. Add cold. Add calorie restriction. Add stress positions. Stir. Let set for weeks or months.

      Right there is a recipe for profound personality disruption! (e.g. mental anguish and suffering)

      Whether they claim to “calculate” this or not, I want to nail those GD medical/psychological folk for leaving anyone to languish under those conditions and end up psychologically healthy!

      This whole argument, as I’ve said before, hinges on a psychologist’s assessment of the coping resources of a person and the potential for psychological harm.

      At the very least, can we not have Congressional hearings where psychologists are questioned about the potential effects of combining these “techniques” and the personality disintegration which is likely to result? Could we have about 100 folks testify? And let’s see the percentage willing to stake a reputation on RISKING human suffering by condoning application of these techniques on people held naked, cold, alone, unwashed, hardly fed, sleepless, unable to move around or exercise freely etc.

      Forget waterboarding. Just the CONDITIONS of this kind of captivity are enough to drive most people nuts!

      Once victim is nuts, how efficacious can any interrogation be anyway?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Hard to avoid the conclusion that medical and psych staffs colluded, worked concurrently with the OLC, to create the facade that obvious torture was not what it seems. As you say, isolation, let alone substantial sensory deprivation, can lead to long term problems. Combine those things with several other stress factors, and you’ve squeezed a lot of personalities into mush.

        • TheraP says:

          And what gets me is that there was a sort of circular reasoning used. So that psychologists designed the torture process and signed off on OKing it – and even provided assistance in legal reasoning. Thus, the experiments predated the legalities and the same people who needed “legal protections” to supervise and sign off on the torture assisted in designing the legal protections!

          Imagine if bank robbers got to help write the laws on robbery! And they could “sign off” on how unlikely it is that a particular robbery would negatively affect the bank!

          This is like some crazy existential play – written to drive the audience nuts! And somehow keep bringing them back for more!

      • Loo Hoo. says:

        Seems to me that isolation alone leads to profound personality disruption right here in US max security prisons!

        It does.

        One of the paradoxes of solitary confinement is that, as starved as people become for companionship, the experience typically leaves them unfit for social interaction. Once, Dellelo was allowed to have an in-person meeting with his lawyer, and he simply couldn’t handle it. After so many months in which his primary human contact had been an occasional phone call or brief conversations with an inmate down the tier, shouted through steel doors at the top of their lungs, he found himself unable to carry on a face-to-face conversation. He had trouble following both words and hand gestures and couldn’t generate them himself. When he realized this, he succumbed to a full-blown panic attack.

    • radiofreewill says:

      So, Mary, are you saying Bradbury used that Memo to open-up the Sub-Prime Torture Market for Bush?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      And how often did they do without the doctor’s pass because the techniques used were the same? Torture expands to fill the moral vacuum it creates.

  9. Valtin says:

    Excellent (partial) reconstruction, EW, of the number one document out there we need to have declassified (tied, perhaps, with the 9/17/01 presidential directive to the CIA).

    6 – Re the administration still torturing. This is where the saliency of the Appendix M/Army Field Manual issue comes into play.

    The administration has eschewed the use of the “enhanced techniques” (really only in part, as they maintain use of sleep deprivation, for sure — it’s in the Army Field Manual!), only to adopt the older, KUBARK-style, DDD approach (Dependency, Debility, and Dread) constructed by top psychologists and psychiatrists in the mid-1950s, based upon Soviet, Chinese, Nazi, and other torture methodologies. The latter relies on use of isolation (solitary confinement), sensory deprivation (and overload), sleep deprivation, fear, threat, manipulation of phobias (like the insects), and inculcation of hopelessness (indefinite detention).

    The U.S. is still a torturing country. The defense of torturers, and those planned the previous policies, goes hand and hand in that.

    Only FDL, Meteor Blades and Patriot Daily at Daily Kos, Andy Worthington, and a handful of lesser known sites even notice this crucial aspect of the current situation. (And kudos to Physicians for Human Rights and Center for Constitutional Rights for also pushing this point.)

  10. susiedow says:

    Was enhanced interrogation at any point used prior to January 2001? For instance, on Ahmed Ressam of the Millenium Plot in Los Angeles. This particular attack was foiled by an astute Customs agent.

    I’m wondering how many plots were foiled using a. enhanced interrogation methods and how many plots were foiled by using b. traditional investigation methods (for lack of a better way to describe it).

  11. antibanana says:

    #7 –Is it possible someone’s desired effect is not actually data extraction, but rather data obliteration?

    An interesting hypothesis. I am also reminded of Fitzgerald’s “sand in the eyes.”

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Looks an awful lot like the White House settled on the meme, “Torture is Effective”, and the OLC played along. The evidence from the field was ambiguous. At worst, it verified the opposite conclusion, one that never bubbled to the top during Mr. Cheney’s tenure.

    If torture doesn’t work, of course, they would not have been justified in breaking so many laws in order to do it (even if that were adequate justification, and I don’t believe it is). I include serial lies to Congress, a felony in its own right, in that category.

    Rove and Cheney used enormous resources throughout their reign attempting to spin the public into believing that facts were opinions, and that it was reasonable to hold their opinions no matter how contrary the facts. The point, it would seem was to avoid being liable when wrong on the facts and/or their likely implications. This topic would fit right in.

  13. Valtin says:

    11 – re pre-Jan. 2001 torture (link)

    The Cageprisoners report, “Fabricating Terrorism II” [PDF], just released, describes one case of rendition and torture that predates 9/11 (emphasis added).

    Nationality: Moroccan/ British Resident
    History/Background: Farid was initially detained in 1999 while in UAE. There he was subjected to torture and interrogation on behalf of the British security services and was later sent to Morocco where this treatment continued. On his release he came to the UK and was arrested on immigration offences, but he was re-arrested in June when Spain issued a European arrest warrant to extradite him for alleged terror offences, and in particular involvement in 9/11. The case against Hilali seems to be vague and circumstantial, and entirely reliant on mobile phone communications data and intercept evidence.

  14. Valtin says:

    9 – Use of psychological assessment to determine how and what techniques to use on a interrogatee goes back a long way. This was a big part of the MKULTRA studies. One only needs to reference certain articles. You may wish to pick up a used copy of Sensory Deprivation: A Symposium Held at Harvard Medical School, Harvard Univ. Press, 1961. (The symposium was held in 1958, and funded by the Office of Naval Research, and I have read, the CIA.)

    There you will find some nuggets about this, like “Experimental Interference with Reality Contact: Individual Difference” by Leo Goldberger and Robert R. Holt (pp. 130-142).

    Also, you could reference the KUBARK manual itself (1963):

    The approach of the psychologists is customarily manipulative; that is, they suggest methods of imposing controls or alterations upon the interrogatee from the outside. Except within the Communist frame of reference, they have paid less attention to the creation of internal controls — i.e., conversion of the source, so that voluntary cooperation results. Moral considerations aside, the imposition of external techniques of manipulating people carries with it the grave risk of later lawsuits, adverse publicity, or other attempts to strike back….

    [approx. 2/3 line deleted] some large stations are able to conduct preliminary psychological screening before interrogation starts. The purpose of screening is to provide the interrogator, in advance, with a reading on the type and characteristics of the interrogatee. It is recommended that screening be conducted whenever personnel and facilities permit, unless it is reasonably certain that the interrogation will be of minor importance or that the interrogatee is fully cooperative. Screening should be conducted by interviewers, not interrogators; or at least the subjects should not be screened by the same KUBARK personnel who will interrogate them later.

    [approx. 10 lines deleted]

    Other psychological testing aids are best administered by a trained psychologist….

    Even a rough preliminary estimate, if valid, can be a boon to the interrogator because it will permit him to start with generally sound tactics from the beginning – tactics adapted to the personality of the source….

    Particularly important is the reference to matching the drug to the personality of the interrogatee. The effect of most drugs depends more upon the personality of the subject than upon the physical characteristics of the drugs themselves. If the approval of Headquarters has been obtained and if a doctor is at hand for administration, one of the most important of the interrogator’s functions is providing the doctor with a full and accurate description of the psychological make-up of the interrogatee, to facilitate the best possible choice of a drug….

    This discussion does not include a list of drugs that have been employed for interrogation purposes or a discussion of their properties because these are medical considerations within the province of a doctor rather than an interogator.

  15. Mary says:

    14 –

    Seems to me that isolation alone leads to profound personality disruption right here in US max security prisons! Add sleep deprivation. Add cold. Add calorie restriction. Add stress positions. Stir. Let set for weeks or months.

    On the isolation, there you do have a lot of footnotes (and some non-footnote) absolutions about *hey, we aren’t including any review of the conditions of confinement* aspect. While you make a very valid point about US prisons, keep in mind these are people for whom there was never any trial to determine that they were eligible for gov punishment. That’s pretty much the essence of Constitutionally prohibited attainder. And here you have a President saying, those who help a President circumvent the Constitution’s prohibition on punishment/abuse without trial/due process – well, I just won’t prosecute them. Why bother with amending the Constitution when as a President you can just, by fiat, refuse to prosecute thos who violate it?

    It will be interesting to see how Obama’s position affects the Chicago Police torture investigation I’m waiting for the media questions that won’t happen – like whether Obama also believes that Chicago needs to just move forward, say it doesn’t torture now and hand off a letter to Burge reassuring him that he and his fine men in uniform who helped keep the city safe won’t be investigated or indicted. After all, we are in a Global War On Terrorims and hot damn if Jose Padilla wasn’t picked up right there in Chi-town and how can you go around demoralizing your police who are protecting you against domestic terrorists by investigating them for torture and …

    It’s really just this side of ridiculous, isn’t it? It will be interesting to see how Fitzgerald deals with the DOJ definitions of torture – while now ‘withdrawn’ they live on in footnoted endorsements (like Goldsmiths) and by Obama’s assertion of that they can be used for “good faith reliance” they live on as a Presidentially endorsed baseline of what it might be reasonable, in good faith, to believe.

    • TheraP says:

      Yes, I saw those footnotes. Which is why I made that comment. And I totally agree, these are folks with no legal recourse, being punished and tortured and made crazy without any charge whatsoever, without visits from the Red Cross. Treated like garbage. And how in the heck can you possibly “authorize” torture on top of the already terrible “conditions” – which they somehow want to leave out of the equation. That’s why I’d love to have Congress question a slew of psychologists on this. How could any ethical professional pretend to do an assessment and sign off on this? How could they pretend to compartmentalize as if this was being done to willing volunteers who have a life and and an apartment and friends and family – but add a little waterboarding on Sunday afternoon….

      The more any human thinks about this carefully, the worse and worse it sounds!

      In a malpractice case they would judge the decision-making of the clinician as well as the “treatment” they’d done and they compare that to the “standard” of your average clinician. That’s why I want those hearings! That’s why I want that initial assessment of AZ! Because I just do not believe this would pass the “smell” test one iota!

  16. Mary says:

    19 – see, you are getting at fact questions. I don’t think there’s any real doubt where I stand on torturers (they are like smokers and addicts, whatever they reason they start, they end up doing it bc – they do it, they need it, it satisifies them)

    I am looking to just the opinions themselves and what they do or can be argued to do and how. If someone is going to put Bradbury in the dock at some point (not that they will) they need to be able to get to exactly what he did do, even without going outside the four corners.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Bradbury’s actual knowledge of relevant and possibly contradictory facts outside of those cited in the opinions might be useful, too. Every lawyer omits some facts and includes others; the question is how material were they to the arguments made. Omitting material facts, or inventing others, is a No, No.

  17. Mary says:

    21 – it really is even a little worse imo. Each group, the lawyers and the psychs and the docs – give the others carve outs. The doctors aren’t being asked whether there will be pain, or trauma, etc. but only whether the pain will fit the lawyer’s definition. The lawyers say – but wait, it’s ok to inflict the pain bc there will be a doc there to make sure the long term physical damage risks are minimal. The lawyers tell the psychs – don’t look to see if this stuff damages someone, or if it might damage someone if you add in years of detention/isolation/being disappeared/repeated 30 day torture periods, etc. — only look to each separate activity and tell us, not whether they do damage, but whether they do this special kind of definitional damage and really, you almost aren’t even telling us that, you are more telling us whether this person will be “damaged way more” by the “techniques” than a more mentally healthy person would be.

    It’s all swiss cheese with lots of holes.

  18. dmac says:

    and i’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around the physical logistics of it—the math.

    183 divided by 30.
    60.1 times a month. twice a day average, or more times a day and less on others. i guess he lost a lot of weight during that time. kinda hard to keep food down or eat. or sleep. no, i didn’t read the memo, and i’m probably not going to. everyone has things they can’t stomach or want in their head, this is mine.

    thanks for your hard work, marcy.

    • cinnamonape says:

      Except they couldn’t do it that way…at least not according to policy.

      …where authorized, it may be used for two “sessions” per day of up to two hours. During a session, water may be applied up to six times for ten seconds or longer (but never more than 40 seconds). In a 24-hour period, a detainee may be subjected to up to twelve minutes of water application. See id. at 42. Additionally, the waterboard may be used on as many as five days during a 30-day approval period.

      It’s important to delink “session” from “application”. It’s unclear if a session can be two hours or only one. That’s poorly written and could have given the CIA a total of four hours.

      Application: 6 times/Session (10-40 seconds per application)
      Total Application/24 hours: 12 minutes

      So doing some math: Application Time/Session Min/Max 1 minute/4 minutes (if 40 seconds). Two sessions = 2 minutes/8 minutes [12 total applications]
      But there appears to be a contradiction here, since the maximum application time allowable is 12 minutes. If you were allowed only two sessions of 4 minutes maximum application you couldn’t get to 12 minutes. That would require a third session within the 24 hour period.

      Note that they seem to plan a session to last either one, or two hours. That allows for about 10-20 minutes total interrogation/application.

      Theoretically…if you were allowed unlimited applications per session you could get 183 applications in a month. But these rules make it almost impossible unless something else is at play. After all, on any given day you could have 12 minutes total [but that’s contradicted elsewhere suggesting only 4-8 minutes]. You can also have only 12 total applications.

      12 x 5 days per 30 day approval period = 60.

      Even assuming two “approval periods” overlapped in a Calendar month they would only be allowed 120 total applications.

      So it looks as if someone may have approved an additional “approval period” within that Calendar month…or allowed an escalation of actual number of “applications”. Clearly though…someone is working off a yet unseen memo/order OR there is activity that isn’t “strictly to order” going on.

      • Loo Hoo. says:

        It’s all just revolting. Can I show my passport at some point? Do I need duel citizenship to travel and not use my America passport?

      • dmac says:

        thanks. i didn’t write out the whole thing. 60 times is the threshold for sessions, twice a day sessions was the guideline. glad you saw what i meant.

        couldn’t figure out how if they stayed within guidelines how they could justify the numbers even if they had ‘permission’ to waterboard. either way, they broke the law.

        your last two paragraphs are the gist of it—

        Even assuming two “approval periods” overlapped in a Calendar month they would only be allowed 120 total applications.

        So it looks as if someone may have approved an additional “approval period” within that Calendar month…or allowed an escalation of actual number of “applications”. Clearly though…someone is working off a yet unseen memo/order OR there is activity that isn’t “strictly to order” going on.

        my emphasis.

  19. philo5 says:

    Why not ask how many people died under this so-called simulated drowning?
    I suspect quite a few didn’t withstand the torment and the torturers also
    used excessive zeal.

  20. NoBlood4Hubris says:

    Effective? Who cares about effective?

    Why don’t we all get together in a big circle and tear the wings off butterflies?

  21. RevBev says:

    Please forgive an OT: for a change of pace. Our local paper,, has a humor/satire columnist regularly.(Kelso) Today, Sunday, his object if GoodHair Gov Perry and the TX secession topic. We do not know if Perry is capable of humiliation, but maybe…Anyway, it is definitely a good laugh with some shots at Rush. (Return to regularly scheduled…Thank you)

  22. Blub says:

    if the admin will not (or politically speaking cannot) prosecute now, can congress pass a law extending the statute of limitations on the offenses in question?

  23. MadDog says:

    Just in case anyone would want to know, the NYT finally caught on to EW’s blockbuster:

    Memo Says Prisoner Was Waterboarded 183 Times

    Oh, and yeah, the NYT was decent enough to give EW (what, a fookin’ blogger?) credit:

    …The sentences in the 2005 memo including the number of times the two men were waterboarded appear to be redacted from some copies of the memo but are visible in others. Initial news reports about the memos in The New York Times and other publications did not include the numbers, but several bloggers, including Marcy Wheeler of the emptywheel blog, discovered the numbers over the weekend

    (My Bold)

    Ta Marcy for all you do!

    Next, I think we need to show the NYT how to include a link. You know, like to EW’s post?

  24. SanderO says:

    As I have stated before you can’t really open up the treatment of prisoners whether in black sites, Gitmo or Bagram… or US PRISONS. Because they ALL abuse the prisoners. We torture people every day of the week in every federal max security prison.

    If this gets any light the whole criminal justice system will begin to be exposed for what it is. A disgrace.

    American not the greatest place for human rights.

    And the world knows it.

  25. JimWhite says:

    Here’s another thought on why they would do this 183 times and especially why they would do it when they did it. Note that this was done in March, 2003–the same month we invaded Iraq. Did they do this so many times in search of a Saddam-9/11 link to use as justification for the Iraq invasion? Nothing would have made them happier…

  26. rich2506 says:

    What do y’all think of the RawStory piece about our ol’ buddy KSM’s location being discovered via the torture of his kids? Personally doesn’t strike me as very likely as KSM would have had to have told them what his hiding places were and would have had to have not reacted to their capture by finding new ways to go under cover. I’m curious as to what others think, though.

  27. radiofreewill says:

    Maybe KSM wasn’t Water-Boarded for Information.

    Maybe he was Water-Boarded for Revenge.

    Maybe he was Water-Boarded once for each Coalition KIA in Afghanistan and Iraq through Mar ‘03, which would have been around 183.

    Here are the numbers from, considered an Authoritative site:

    Iraq – 92 Coaltion Fatalities in Mar ‘03

    Afghanistan – 81 (’01 and ‘02) plus the first three months of ‘03 (approx 10-20)

    So, 183 would be at the low range of Likely Total Fatalities, but it is Almost Certain that the Coalition Fatality Total between Afghanistan and Iraq would have been 183 at some point very late in Mar ‘03.

    Does this sound like Bush Torture-Logic to anyone else? To sadisticly ‘kill’ and resuscitate an ‘enemy combatant’ over and over, 183 times, to ’settle’ a score?

    Would a Monster do that?

  28. Neil says:

    President Barack Obama
    Sen. Edward Kennedy
    Sen. John Kerry
    Rep. Stephen Lynch

    April 19, 2009

    When US soldiers at Abu Grhaib were charged with breaking the law, we were told by our President and Secretary of Defense that they were “a few bad apples” which is to say that they acted on their own and not under the authority of orders. This was a lie.

    These men and women were largely army reserve MPs from Maryland assigned to the job of MP at Abu Grhaib. They were tried, found guilty and did jail time for following orders, implied or direct, but unequivocal orders for policies set by their superiors which apparently were authorized by the Sec of Defense and Commander in Chief with legal jujitsu (fallacies) provided by the OLC and DOJ.

    We know now just how untrue that statement was – a few bad apples – and how egregious an act it was to hold these soldiers accountable for “interrogation” policies that were clearly approved and ordered from above.

    The same thing happened at Bagram AFB in Afghanistan. Torture tactics approved for interrogation led to deaths and the prosecution of soldiers for doing as they were ordered.

    There is no excuse except political expediency for the Commander in Chief to allow the prosecution of these soldiers and simultaneously to claim that we don’t torture, when he in fact authorized it.

    AG Holder MUST assign a special prosecutor and find the truth. These torture tactics were illegal when Bush took office and they remained illegal while Bush was in office and they are still illegal. We have laws. That is what is supposed to make our country different, exceptional even.

    If anyone including the president wishes to change the law, they must go to Congress. Hiring lawyers to decide that up is down and torture is cotton candy is one giant step away from reality – it doesn’t hold water. Our country cannot be a lawless one. Until Holder assigns a special prosecutor, it clearly is.

  29. sponson says:

    CQ reports that Rep. Jane Harman was caught on an NSA wiretap conspiring with the two AIPAC lobbyists accused of spying. Furthermore, they go on to report that Gonzales and Negroponte squashed any investigation/prosecution of Harman, in part because she went to bat for the illegal domestic spying program with the New York Times, helping to delay the story in 2004. Gonzales obstructed justice in order to help a key Bush ally, who had helped both cover up domestic spying and by doing so helped Bush win the 2004 election. Don’t forget that Harman also defended waterboarding as well.

  30. radiofreewill says:

    Well, now we know how the Gang of 8 voted – and We were clearly knifed by our own, too.

    Jane dirtied herself with AIPAC, while Bush was listening-in, and he flipped her against US to do his bidding – on warrantless wire-tapping no less!

    Treacherous, just treacherous…

  31. SomeGuy says:

    The FBI and Federal Prosecutors are very good at getting the truth from criminals. When former President Bush indulged his sadistic impulses and took the interrogations from the FBI and turned them over to the CIA and Military he turned the most interviews into the amateur hour.

    They got the the techniques they used from the SERE program which was developed by studying the techniques used to extract false confessions from American pilots. Guess what, the techniques are still effective at forcing false confessions.

    If my life, or the life of a family member were at stake, I’d rather have an interrogator with experience in, and training in getting true information.

    FBI agents and Federal Prosecutors would be much better. Now that amateur hour is over, hopefully they will get a chance.

  32. Cujo359 says:

    Hi emptywheel. Yes, I finally noticed (scroll down to the end). Thanks. Good catch.

    Hard to add anything that hasn’t already been said. Not only were the Bush Administration sadists, they were incompetent, too. Arrogance can do that, I suppose. They sure were good at making messes, though. Not only did they mess up our foreign policy, they ruined countless lives for little or no benefit.

  33. jukeboxgrad says:

    Note the contradiction with what we were told previously. On 3/12/08, DNI McConnell said we only used waterboarding “three times.”

  34. davidrkoff says:

    On Page 2 of the first memo just released, dated August 2, 2002, Jay Bybee sets out one of the “facts” on which the argument that follows is based:

    “Moreover, you [the CIA] have also orally informed us that although some of these techniques may be used with more than once [sic], that repetition will not be substantial because the techniques generally lose their effectiveness after several repetitions.”

    Yet according to the May 30, 2005, memo at Page 37,

    “The CIA used the waterboard ‘at least 83 times during August 2002,’ in the interrogation of Zubaydah, IG Report at 90 . . . .”

    So at the same time the CIA “orally informed” DOJ that the use of these “techniques” would “not be substantial,” it was using one of them an average of nearly three times a day for 30 days on one person. Since almost the entire August 2, 2002, memo is based on information provided by the CIA, there’s no reason to believe any of the other “facts” on which the tortuous argument for torture was based.

    Moreover, if the CIA had concluded before August 2, 2002, that “the techniques generally lose their effectiveness after several repetitions,” why carry on? Perhaps, in fact, the “techniques” became ever more “effective” — for those carrying them out.

  35. terryjay53 says:

    Despite what appears to be overwhelming evidence that enhanced techniques do not work and nobody can point to a specific instance where it deterred and attack of the US idiots like Charles Krauthammer still use it as a talking point when debating the widom of the Memos being released.

  36. murphzero says:

    Just wanted to congratulate you for this post and the hat tip from the NYT for bringing this information to everyone’s attention.

    Flat out awesome.

    Thanks for blogging.

  37. orwell2112 says:

    Sept. 11 mastermind was waterboarded 183 times to remove head lice, say former Bush administration officials…..ials/1270/

    WASHINGTON – Responding to Justice Department memos declassified by the Obama administration last week, former Bush administration officials claim that CIA agents who repeatedly waterboarded Sept. 11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were not bent on torture but simply treating a raging case of head lice and dandruff …

  38. SebastianDangerfield says:


    First, congratulations on your front-page recognition in the Times; such recognition is late in coming and is more than well deserved.

    Second, here is something that is really bugging me, and perhaps you as well. According to the Times, “The sentences in the memo containing that information appear to have been redacted from some copies but are visible in others.”

    If that is true — and I have to go back to the memos but haven’t had the time — isn’t it time to raise some serious questions about the redactions? I can see absolutely no legitimate reason that the information regarding the number of times these people were waterboarded should be withheld. To be sure, there were not many redactions and some of them definitely appear to be designed to remove the names of particular persons involved in the interrogations, but not all are. for instance, the substantial one-or-more-sentence-long redaction at the end of the last full paragraph on p. 3 of the Aug. 1, 2002 memo (the infamous “insect” paragraph) is particularly mysterious. My hunch is that this redaction — like the redaction of the number of times that Mohammed and Zubaydah were waterboarded — is motivated by fear of embarrassment and/or the revelation of information clearly pointing to culpability. (As you have noted, the extent of the waterboarding exceeded even the OLC’s Room 101 guidelines.)

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