April 17, 2010 / by emptywheel


Abu Zubaydah May Have Been Waterboarded MORE than 83 Times

MadDog and I just realized something that should have been apparent since August. He and I have been looking at the passage of yesterday’s document dump that refers to CIA keeping OLC informed of how many times waterboarding was used.

First, and most obvious, Jay Bybee’s 1 Aug 2002 memo to John Rizzo stated, in part, “Moreover, you have also orally informed us that although some of these techniques may be used with more than once, that repetition will not be substantial because the techniques generally lose their effectiveness after several repetitions.” (p. 2) and again, “You have indicated that these acts will not be used with substantial repetition, so that there is no possibility that severe physical pain could arise from such repetition.” (p. 11). The OIG review determined that Abu Zubaydah was subjected to [redacted 2 characters?] waterboard sessions, consisting of at least 83 seperate exposures [redacted sentence] assured us that he gave regular updates to DoJ (i.e. John Yoo [redacted 2-3 words] at OLC) during this time frame, and DoJ was aware of the real numbers, but we were never able to verify this with DoJ, as INV management at the time elected not to interview witnesses outside the building. In addition to the disparity in numbers, the method of water application as recorded on the tapes was at odds with the Bybee opinion… [MadDog’s transcription and emphasis]

Now, here’s what the IG Report itself said about how they came up with that number, 83. (It’s worth actually looking at this passage–on PDF 41-42; this entire discussion appears in one paragraph in the “Videotapes on Interrogations” section.)

OIG reviewed the videotapes, logs, and cables [redacted] in May 2003. OIG identified 83 waterboard applications most of which lasted less than 10 seconds.

[4-5 lines redacted]

OIG found 11 interrogation tapes to be blank. Two others were blank except for one or two minutes of recording. Two others were broken and could not be reviewed. OIG compared the videotapes to logs and cables and identified a 21-hour period of time which included two waterboard sessions that was not captured on the videotapes.

That is, they got the number 83 from not just the videotapes, but also the logs and cables. That’s because the IG couldn’t have gotten the total number of waterboard applications from the videos. As the IG Report makes clear in the same paragraph that first mentions the number 83, two entire sessions of waterboarding should have appeared on the tapes that were taped over or otherwise damaged.

Remember the context of this. CIA’s Office of General Counsel had, in November-December 2002, reviewed the tapes, purportedly to make sure they matched the guidance the interrogators had gotten from Langley and the cables they sent reporting on the interrogation. Yet, as the IG  team had discovered during their investigation, the lawyer who conducted that review (according to the WaPo, John McPherson) hadn’t actually compared the guidance to what appeared in the videos. When the IG did a review themselves in May 2003, they discovered that the waterboarding in the video did not match the guidance. Perhaps that’s the only reason the IG Report seems skeptical about the self-reported number that appeared in the log and cables describing the two sessions not videotaped. Or perhaps the IG review of the videotapes had discovered a discrepancy between the numbers shown in the videos and those reported up the chain of command (which might be what the discussion in the four redacted lines is).

The bigger story remains that Abu Zubaydah’s torturers appear to have taped over or otherwise destroyed video of two of their waterboarding sessions. But one of the things that obscures about AZ’s treatment is the number of times he was actually waterboarded.

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/2010/04/17/abu-zubaydah-may-have-been-waterboarded-more-than-83-times/