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What really happened to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed?

Earlier this week, liberal bloggers breathlessly repeated this remarkable discovery, dredged up from CIA interrogation memos and published by the New York Times on Monday: "Waterboarding Used 266 Times On 2 Suspects."

An incredible claim, to be sure, and one so perfect in its characterization of Bush Administration officials as merciless Nazis that it immediately outweighed all the other revelations about enhanced interrogation methods made during the rest of the week.

If the notion of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed being subjected to six waterboarding sessions per day continuously for a month seemed a little far-fetched to you, you weren't the only one. I held off writing about this story in the hope that a reasonable explanation would eventually surface. Writing for National Review Online, Clifford May seems to be offering that explanation:

How many times have you read and heard in the mainstream media that terrorists were waterboarded more than 180 times?

It turns out that's not true. What is?

According to two sources, both of them very well-informed and reliable (but preferring to remain anonymous), the 180-plus times refers not to sessions of waterboarding, but to "pours" -- that is, to instances of water being poured on the subject.

Under a strict set of rules, every pour of water had to be counted -- and the number of pours was limited.

Also: Waterboarding interrogation sessions were permitted on no more than five days within any 30-day period.

No more than two sessions were permitted in any 24-hour period.

A session could last no longer than two hours.

There could be at most six pours of water lasting ten seconds or longer -- and never longer than 40 seconds -- during any individual session.

Water could be poured on a subject for a combined total of no more than 12 minutes during any 24 hour period.

You do the math.

A little over a year ago, ABC News interviewed former CIA interrogator John Kiriakou. Kiriakou spoke bluntly about interrogating captured Al Qaeda terrorists, and provided quite a bit of detail regarding the interrogation process and the use of progressively violent or coercive techniques in order to pry information from detainees:

"It wasn't up to individual interrogators to decide, 'Well, I'm gonna slap him.' Or, 'I'm going to shake him.' Or, 'I'm gonna make him stay up for 48 hours.'

"Each one of these steps, even though they're minor steps, like the intention shake, or the open-handed belly slap, each one of these had to have the approval of the deputy director for operations," Kiriakou told ABC News.

"The cable traffic back and forth was extremely specific," he said. "And the bottom line was these were very unusual authorities that the agency got after 9/11. No one wanted to mess them up. No one wanted to get in trouble by going overboard. So it was extremely deliberate."

"That's why so few people were waterboarded. I think the agency has said that two people were waterboarded, Abu Zubaydah being one, and it's because you really wanted it to be a last resort because we didn't want these false confessions. We didn't want wild goose chases," Kiriakou said.

"A former colleague of mine asked him during the conversation one day, 'What would you do if we decided to let you go one day?' And he said, 'I would kill every American and Jew I could get my hands on...It's nothing personal. You're a nice guy. But this is who I am.'" (emphasis added)

Both the Kiriakou interview and the details about waterboarding published by Cliff May agree on a key point -- enhanced interrogations were very carefully scripted and monitored. Procedures were specific. Escalations required approval far up the chain of command. There was no room for "improvisation" or "rogue interrogators" or sessions that accidentally went too far.

Cliff May further explains:

Not only lawyers but also physicians and psychologists were involved in these decisions. Indeed, these interrogations were supervised by physicians and psychologists who had the power to stop them.

Remember that Abu Zubaydah said: "Brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardships."

Any interrogator worth his salt would understand this means it is his job to bring his subject to the point at which cooperation is no longer betrayal but permitted according to his religious beliefs. Can that be achieved short of torture? Sure. Can it be achieved without coercive interrogation techniques? No, not with subjects who have the beliefs described above.

These are obviously inconvenient truths for the Left, which must avoid them at all costs if it is to write off the Bush Administration as nothing more than über-evil racists, sadists, and war criminals. The Left obviously wants to steer the national conversation away from any substantive questions regarding the veracity and usefulness of information gained during the interrogations that we conducted during the early years of the War on Terror. They also want to focus the discussion solely through the lens of 20/20 hindsight and omit any serious historical review of the fears and uncertainties that gripped our nation in 2002 and 2003. They seem to have no interest in revisiting the trial-and-error process of assembling intelligence information about Al Qaeda, which began essentially from scratch after the decimation of Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan in early 2002.

And they especially want to avoid talking about the extent that Congressional Democrats were involved in the oversight and approval of CIA interrogation methods during the early years of the War on Terror. Not a single Democrat objected to those interrogation techniques until they all agreed that it would be politically expedient to do so.

The truth is that our interrogation of Al Qaeda prisoners yielded a tremendous amount of useful information. The interrogation of Abu Zubaydah brought forth information that led to the capture of numerous high-ranking Al Qaeda operatives including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Al Qaeda was neutralized primarily by the elimination of key personnel (either by killing or apprehending them) and the interrogation of captured Al Qaeda members was a critical part of that effort.

Undoubtedly there are still some loose ends that need to be tied up with respect to enhanced interrogation procedures. For example, when John Kiriakou was interviewed by ABC News, he stated that Abu Zubaydah broke after only 35 seconds of waterboarding. This directly contradicts the CIA memo stating that Zubaydah was subjected to 83 "pours." Also, much of the video that was taken during Abu Zubaydah's interrogation sessions was destroyed by the CIA in 2005 (date corrected). That doesn't inspire much confidence in Kiriakou's version of events. Even though waterboarding has been discontinued as an interrogation technique, we ought to know the truth about how often it was actually used.

As our own HughS and other bloggers have already noted, the Obama Administration's clumsy hindsight attempt to sensationalize certain enhanced interrogation procedures and question their necessity, while dodging questions about the overall effectiveness of the program, has been a dismal failure. This issue will be far from over as long as key information is deliberately withheld -- not just by the CIA, but by the Obama White House as well.


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Comments (40)

Take the SOB out back and b... (Below threshold)
Gmac:

Take the SOB out back and blow his brains out.
He is DIRECTLY responsible for the deaths of thousands.

"Also: Waterboarding interr... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

"Also: Waterboarding interrogation sessions were permitted on no more than five days within any 30-day period.
No more than two sessions were permitted in any 24-hour period.
A session could last no longer than two hours."


The neocons are frantic . Cliff May does his part to trash the beloved "ticking time bomb" scenario by noting the use of waterboarding as a PUNISHMENT ROUTINE (which is by DEFINITION torture). Special Olympics Tin Medal.

"The neocons are frantic."<... (Below threshold)
Garandfan:

"The neocons are frantic."

No, people with common sense are getting disgusted with "progressives" and their holier than thou attitude. You'll note the approval rating for waterboarding was over 70%.

As George Orwell noted, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

As George Orwell noted, "Pe... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

As George Orwell noted, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

Your name is "Garand", you memorialize "rough men". Just keep 2 feet away, buddy.

:o)

No surprise BrianD decides ... (Below threshold)
epador:

No surprise BrianD decides to make a Special Olympics "joke." Can't even learn from the errors of his hero!

Yep, I understand. Until y... (Below threshold)
Garandfan:

Yep, I understand. Until your ass is in danger.
For your entertainment tonight, why not peruse Kipling's "Thin Red Line". Sleep well.

When the our enemies apolog... (Below threshold)
hcddbz:

When the our enemies apologize for dragging rangers through the street of Somalia,
When they say sorry for flying planes into buildings
When they send us the men who use swords to chop off people heads
I might feel sorry for roughing them up to get information to prevent the deaths of my fellow citizens.
NEWS FLASH they wants US dead. When they come for you they do not care what color your skin is, or if you are liberal or conservative. They want you dead because you are not like them.
On 9/11 when thousands died they did not pick out anyone they just wanted dead westerns.

America has nothing to apologize for. Infarct we should remarkable restraint in dealing with the dregs of humanity. Since 1801 the radical of the Islamic faith have wanted to kill us.

Torturing a human being is ... (Below threshold)
Ryan:

Torturing a human being is torturing a human being, no matter how anyone tries to spin it. You can try to explain it away until you're blue in the face, but there are not "levels" of "not that bad" torture that are acceptable in the United States of America. These types of things are a fact of life in prisons all over the world, but not in the United States of America. We are supposed to be better than that.

You soil a part of your soul when you try to defend torture.

One of the truest things ever said:

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Ben Franklin

When will people stop defending the indefensible? Are you so deeply partisan that you can call yourself an American and stand up for abominations like torture and warrantless wiretapping at the same time?

Ryan - "When will peopl... (Below threshold)
marc:

Ryan - "When will people stop defending the indefensible? Are you so deeply partisan that you can call yourself an American and stand up for abominations like torture and warrantless wiretapping at the same time?"

When are you going to stop lecturing others? You won't change any minds and it has nothing to do with partisanship.

The facts are your in the minority with respect to this issue.

Ryan, speaking of partisans... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Ryan, speaking of partisanship - you are incredibly stupid.

Obama Administration quietly expands wiretapping program

I'm really so tired of this... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

I'm really so tired of this discussion with people like Ryan[shut up], Hyperbolist[my Canadian values are better than yours], Bryan[I'm no shrinking violet]D, et al. As some of us are truly interested in getting all the facts in order to come to a reasoned conclusion and maybe even change our minds if we find we're wrong, these are the ones who first came to a conclusion and then spend all their time defending it in the face of any new information.

This is not a black and white issue. If "torture", something so ill defined, is bad, what's the alternative? If you were charged with the awesome burden of protecting an entire country from indiscriminate killers, how far would you go? What's your 'break point'? At what point between trial by a jury of their peers and painful-and-extreme-execution would you stop? What is torture?

It just kills me that when an innocent 13 year old is held in the boys room and made to put his underwear on his head, we call it "bullying". But if we do it to known terrorists, it's called "torture". They're both humiliating experiences, but neither is torture. So quit trying to water it down.

When what's-her-face and her merry band in Abu Graib forced inmates to strip down and make human pyramids and and all manner of acts, she and they deserved punishment. It served no purpose but to provide a sick sort of amusement for people operating outside supervision. But it was not torture.

Intent is a big factor that many will not consider. Were KSM and Zubaydah waterboarded for sick amusement? No. Or is this a technique that was thoroughly studied by physical doctors, psychologists and ethicists and then vetted by lawyers and a Congressional panel? Yes. Did they think that everyone would agree with the conclusion that it did not cross a particular line? I doubt it. Did it then yield important information? Yes.

How many lives would not have been saved if these two men were not made fearful for a few seconds? We'll never know.

I don't ever want to know.

When we get hit again (and ... (Below threshold)
retired military:

When we get hit again (and we will) Bryan, hyper and other liberals will not say "how did this happen?", they wont say "kill the people that did this" or even "whoever did this must pay for their crimes" they will say "It is Bush's fault for waterboarding".

THat will be the cry of the left for the next 20 years never mind the fact that 911 happened before anyone was waterboarded.

retired military <blo... (Below threshold)
hcddbz:

retired military

THat will be the cry of the left for the next 20 years never mind the fact that 911 happened before anyone was waterboarded.

Except for American war fighters by other American war fighters.
Something the press keeps failing to realize. We do it to our own as part of SERE training.

Oyster writes:"If yo... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

Oyster writes:
"If you were charged with the awesome burden of protecting an entire country from indiscriminate killers, how far would you go? What's your 'break point'? At what point between trial by a jury of their peers and painful-and-extreme-execution would you stop? What is torture?"

Exactly.

And folks like Hyper, BryanD and Ryan must avoid at all costs answering those specific questions. If you want to gather intelligence by taking the time to gain the confidence and good will of your mark without physical or psychological "abuse" that is fine. If it generally takes some time, oh let's say 3 months, to get results with this strategy but you have every reason to believe an event is coming sooner, what do you do?

Only because Eric Blair (Ge... (Below threshold)
epador:

Only because Eric Blair (George Orwell) and Rudyard Kipling are freely quoted in this thread, I'll diverge for a moment. There is a very interesting letter Orwell wrote during WWII in regards to Kipling, who he quite rightly took to task for his broader "vulgar" and yet elitist views of the world and war. There is even a chickenhawk argument in there if you read carefully. It was originally published in Horizon, Feb 1942. It can be found in My Country Right or Left, article #30 on page 184.

An excellent piece about Pacifism can be found a few pages later on 226 as part of a back and forth on #34 Pacifism and the War with DS Savage, George Woodcock and Alex Comfort that also explores just what Fascism is and isn't.

His war writings, and those directly after the war, are highly recommended, and can be found in a four volume collection edited by his descendants. I do believe the writings referenced would be a wonderful basis for discussion of this post, if both sides would take the time to read them and comment intelligently.

I won't hold my breath, however.

BTW, well said, oyster.... (Below threshold)
epador:

BTW, well said, oyster.

Cliff May has been on TV so... (Below threshold)
galoob:

Cliff May has been on TV so much lately on this issue that he should change the name of his organization to the Foundation for the Defense of Waterboarding.

The jury is still out about... (Below threshold)
Unrepentant Democrat:

The jury is still out about whether or not water boarding was effective. For the first time in my life I agree with Cheyney, lets get all of the information out. Lets just get to the truth of it all. Let the chips fall where they may.

David D - more than once those of us who disagree with you folks have been challenged about what we'd do. I've said this before. I'd do what's legal under our laws and applicable treaties and I'd follow the Army FM on interrogation.

"They who can give... (Below threshold)
LaMedusa:
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Ben Franklin

Ryan, Franklin was talking about governmental control and tyranny.

The CIA inspector general i... (Below threshold)
JC Hammer:

The CIA inspector general in 2004 found that there was no conclusive proof that water boarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to recently declassified Justice Department memos. That undercuts assertions by former vice president Dick Cheney and other former Bush administration officials that the use of harsh interrogation tactics including water boarding, which is widely considered torture, was justified because it headed off terrorist attacks.

Guess it depends on who's talking points you wish to spew. In 2004 the GOP was in complete control, so I would have to believe the CIA report.

"No surprise BrianD decides... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

"No surprise BrianD decides to make a Special Olympics "joke." Can't even learn from the errors of his hero!"
5. Posted by epador

Spotter round, hit! Fire for effect!
(Epador runs from cover wrapped in a towel)

"For your entertainment tonight, why not peruse Kipling's "Thin Red Line"."-gf

I'm familiar with it. The enlisted man's bitch writ large in Kipling's inimitable clunky style. It's OK.

"Or is this a technique that was thoroughly studied by physical doctors, psychologists and ethicists and then vetted by lawyers and a Congressional panel? Yes."-oyster

Hey! If you can't trust quacks, shrinks, parsers, shysters and a panel of pantloads, who can you trust?

BryanD,Maybe we shou... (Below threshold)
Grace:

BryanD,
Maybe we should trust you???
Seriously, the discussion here is thoughtful and you just throw bombs.
Go and play outside like a good little boy.

"Seriously, the di... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

"Seriously, the discussion here is thoughtful and you just throw bombs."-grace

It's an interesting post by M.L. Any post that includes the phrase "Cliff May explains" gives me a sudden craving for popcorn.

As for my smudging the guest discussion, what more is there to say? You and yours are studiously avoiding the fact that Bonesman Bush and his state torture program is attempting to set the state of consensual society back 500 years to the Counter-reformation, BTW, when waterboarding was perfected (by utilizing cloth gag). See Inquisition.

Talk about "Old Europe"!

Torturing a human ... (Below threshold)
Torturing a human being is torturing a human being, no matter how anyone tries to spin it.

And waterboarding KSM does not meet either criterion, no matter how you try to spin it.

jc hammer - "The CIA in... (Below threshold)
marc:

jc hammer - "The CIA inspector general in 2004 found that there was no conclusive proof that water boarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to recently declassified Justice Department memos"

My, how informative your are!

So informative it would appear as if you've actually read the IG's report (as opposed to cut & pasting some lying nitwit).

Would you be so kind to help us proletariat knuckle-draggers out and cite and link to the specific portion you have noted.

<a href="http://www.washing... (Below threshold) Having gone through SERE an... (Below threshold)
Larry Dickman:

Having gone through SERE and later returning to be an interrogator at there, no one for a minute believed they were going to die. But going through it increased our hatred of those who would do such a thing to soldiers or civilians. They were animals who had no regard for the Geneva Convention. We knew we were morally superior to those dogs who would torture.

Never mind that torture simply doesn't work, it's against the law. We signed a treaty with other nations to uphold that law and pressured other nations to sign it, as well. We looked down at the barbarians who would not sign the Geneva Convention and formed alliances against them.

Now where are we?

You don't abandon your morals and laws the when your ass is in a sling. That's when you show your integrity.

You people are pathetic. You know why you believe torture works? Because it would work on you. You're weak and have never taken a step to actually defend your country.

Part of the pride of being in our military is defending a great nation that is THE symbol of freedom and human rights.

You've shot that all to hell.

I recall that liberal, left... (Below threshold)
Burt:

I recall that liberal, lefty demonstrators waterboarded each other on the sidewalk in front of the White House during one of Cindy Sheehan's visits. If it's OK for the demonstrators to practice it, Why is everyone upset when the pros do it?

Because the demonstrators w... (Below threshold)
914:

Because the demonstrators were showing how big and bad Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld axis of evil were hurting the itty bitty under priveledged terrorists. You dont see them practicing partial birth abortions in front of the White House to protest the real slaughter of innocents though do you?

Funny how the liberal mind draws a blank on that one.

BrianD:Ha HA. Two... (Below threshold)
epador:

BrianD:

Ha HA. Two can play his game.

epador spins sensor controls in the GCS, flips a covered switch and a Hellfire speeds on its way to obliterate a quivering [ex]Marine. Friendly Fire!!! Turning back to the pilot, he thanks her for another chance to keep our country safe, switches out with the next shift, and prepares for the hour long drive back to Vegas, baby!

"...Hellfire speeds on its ... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

"...Hellfire speeds on its way to obliterate a quivering [ex]Marine"-epador

Hmmm. My scenario featured your character/handle (comment 21) in a situation of strictly cartoon violence likely to garner you a Jack Lemmon Memorial Award for Comedy Relief in a Drama. Whereas I end up spattered in my own urine as you and your female team member report back to Camp Rambo to have sex. Hmmm.


"Cant even learn from th... (Below threshold)
914:

"Cant even learn from the errors of his hero" and "Special Olympics"

ha ha , ya gotta love the ease at which Obumma molds the minions to his moronic whimsys. ha ha ha ha ha

LOL and you are obviously j... (Below threshold)
epador:

LOL and you are obviously jealous too.

I mean about crewing a Pred... (Below threshold)
epador:

I mean about crewing a Predator, that is.

Having gone throug... (Below threshold)
Having gone through SERE and later returning to be an interrogator at there, no one for a minute believed they were going to die.

Now that you've established your credentials, please tell us how you went back to Vietnam in the mid-'80s to singlehandedly rescue a group of POWs.

You people are pathetic. You know why you believe torture works?

I don't believe torture works. I believe waterboarding works. Even if all the people who were saved from an LA attack don't believe it.

"You people are pathetic... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

"You people are pathetic. You know why you believe torture works? Because it would work on you. You're weak and have never taken a step to actually defend your country."

Really, the chickenhawk argument is SO last year.

This whole argument over "t... (Below threshold)
RicardoVerde:

This whole argument over "torture" and Obama's flipping and flopping about prosecutions is nothing but fodder for the MSM. As long as we keep CNN abuzz about what the meaning of "toture" really is or whether or not Obama bowed to some potentate, we stay diverted from concentrating on socialized health care or carbon cap & trade or youth indoctrination programs. In other words this debate functions as smokescreen for Obama, so he can make our society more "fair" but at the cost of liberty. In America liberty has always trumped fairness as the ultimate ideal, that is, until now.

Yup ... (Below threshold)
914:

Yup

"What really happened to... (Below threshold)
914:

"What really happened to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed"

He signed a billion dollar bookdeal and now is entertaining an invitation to be Homeland Security Advisor in the Hussein administration.

Larry Dickman, did you serv... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Larry Dickman, did you serve in the Girl Scouts? What organization did you serve in that causes you to hate your country? How many people have to say this is not a conventional war for you to learn that fact? How many barbaric deaths to innocent civilians would you condone before you took our safety seriously? You are pathetic. And to accuse many fine veterans on this forum of not serving makes me wonder about your alleged service. ww




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