In book, Bush strongly defends use of waterboarding

WASHINGTON Thu Nov 4, 2010 3:32pm EDT

Demonstrator Maboud Ebrahimzadeh lies on the pavement after his ordeal in a simulation of waterboarding outside the Justice Department in Washington November 5, 2007. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Demonstrator Maboud Ebrahimzadeh lies on the pavement after his ordeal in a simulation of waterboarding outside the Justice Department in Washington November 5, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When then-President George W. Bush was asked to approve a tough interrogation technique known as waterboarding on September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he wasted little time in deciding.

"Damn right," he said.

Bush's approval of waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning condemned by human rights activists as torture, to try to wrench information from captured al Qaeda operatives was among the most controversial decisions he made during eight years in the White House.

In his memoir, "Decision Points," Bush strongly defends the use of waterboarding as critical to his efforts to prevent a repeat of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. He says waterboarding was limited to three detainees and led to intelligence breakthroughs that thwarted attacks.

The book, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, is to hit bookstores on Tuesday. He writes that his ability to prevent another September 11 attack on U.S. soil was "my most meaningful accomplishment."

Waterboarding, which human rights groups contend is illegal under the Geneva Conventions, was banned by Bush's successor, President Barack Obama, shortly after taking office in 2009. Interrogators are now required to follow interrogation guidelines laid out in the U.S. Army Field Manual.

During Bush's presidency, the United States came under international criticism for its treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan and foreign terrorism suspects held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Bush writes that waterboarding was first approved for Abu Zubaydah, an al Qaeda figure arrested in Pakistan in 2002 who was suspected of involvement in a plot to attack Los Angeles International Airport.

When Abu Zubaydah stopped answering questions from the FBI, CIA Director George Tenet told Bush he thought the detainee had more information to offer.

Bush writes that CIA and Justice Department lawyers conducted a careful legal review and came up with an "enhanced interrogation program," which he said complied with the U.S. Constitution and all applicable laws, including those that ban torture.

Bush writes that there were two techniques, which he does not describe, that he felt went too far even though they were legal and he ordered that they not be used. But he approved the use of waterboarding.


"No doubt the procedure was tough, but medical experts assured the CIA that it did no lasting harm," Bush writes.

He says the new methods proved "highly effective," and Abu Zubaydah revealed large amounts of information about al Qaeda's structure as well as the location of Ramzi bin al Shibh, who he called the logistical planner of September 11 attacks.

Abu Zubaydah later explained to interrogators why he began answering questions again, according to the book.

"His understanding of Islam was that he had to resist interrogation only up to a certain point. Waterboarding was the technique that allowed him to reach that threshold, fulfill his religious duty, and then cooperate," Bush writes.

"You must do this for all the brothers," Bush quotes Abu Zubaydah as saying.

Bush says Mohammed proved difficult to break, "but when he did, he gave us a lot." He disclosed plans to attack American targets with anthrax and "directed us to three people involved in the al Qaeda biological weapons program," among other breakthroughs, Bush writes.

In sum, Bush writes, the CIA interrogation program saved lives.

"Had we captured more al Qaeda operatives with significant intelligence value, I would have used the program for them as well," he writes.

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Comments (6)
McBob08 wrote:
America prosecuted Japanese soldiers for waterboarding Americans during WWII. Waterboarding was torture then, and it’s still torture now. Approving Waterboarding is just one of many war crimes Bush should be prosecuted for.

Plus there’s the fact that psychologists say that using torture doesn’t work; it only makes the tortured person say what he perceives that his torturers want him to say to get it to stop.

Nov 04, 2010 7:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
jeepmanjr wrote:
It wouldn’t be “torture” if it were used on someone who killed, or had knowledge of someone who killed, your mom, dad, brother or sister or other family member. No. That would be different. But when it’s someone NOT close to you, it would be wrong and there should be heII to pay. You freekin’ hypocrites!!! Liberals! If only the tin man had gotten a brain.

Nov 04, 2010 11:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
kschltr wrote:
If you read the article, I have not yet read the book, and probably won’t… You will note Bush said he authorized the technique for three (3) detainees and claimed to have acquired valuable information to prevent terrorist attacks in the US, specifically LA. However, he also stated that had the technique resulted in information leading to arrests of individuals who possessed critical intel information he would have used it more frequently and on other detainees.

The question then becomes; If the technique was so useful, why didn’t it lead to more significant arrests? And, if the intel allegedly acquired was correct, why didn’t they connect the dots to the individuals/cells planning such attacks? Sheik Khalid Mohammed looked pretty brain injured to me when he was being sent to trail last year, and waterboarding can frequently result in numerous small cerebral embolisms resulting in potentially devastating brain injury as well as myocardial infarctions. Primarilly one must be concerned with the vast number of waterboarding procedures Khalid Mohammed endured and at some point the information obtained becomes useless as a result of repeated trauma, nightmares, conversion of real memories into false memories, similar to the kink of false reporting of conditioned trauma victims… And, of course, they ARE just going to tell you what they think you want to hear after awhile, aren’t they? I’m not saying tough interrogation is not necessary but waterboarding more than a handful of times when the interrogee is psychologically prepped MAY be about as useful as ECT is for treating depression. Electroconvulsive Therapy only works on some limited formes of depression and causes brief retrograde and anterograde amnesia allowing for healing and reconditioning between treatments. HOwever, too many treatments causes brain injury and cognitive impariment.

I know comparing waterboarding (torture) to medical ECT (treatment) seems like comparing apples with oranges, but I’m a psych nurse, or at least was for many years and understand methods of treatmenta as well as collecting accurate historical data through interviews of pstients READ INTERROGATION, in some cases where subtle, passive misdirection leads to more accurate and useful information which the patients have suppressed as a result of trauma or in some cases deliberately to avoid responsibility for past indiscretions, crimes, etc… Often all we elicit by overly aggressive INTERROGATION and HOSTILE MANIPULATION is distorted and paranoid ideation of a factitious (false} nature. Traumatized POWs do the same thing and then PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, avoidance, paranoid ideation set in. In repeated waterboarding there is significant damage from repeated small embolisms.

It is useless if applied at the wrong time and it is useless if applied too many times. It is torture and there are slower, more subtle and more effective methods including non destructive medical techniques and therapeutic techniques to prep and individual combined with misdirection, sensory depravation, including isolation, etc… The use of destuctive and painful techniques only stregnthens the will to resist and creates false memories attached to what may have been useful information if collected by alternative, nondestructive and physically as well as emotionally painless methods.

I’m not comparing psych patients or medical treatment to torture, but it takes time and effort to create a millieu in which information may be subtally obtained through passive and/or objective observation. The peoples of the Middle East were not our enemies when this began they just had loyalties to their faith and region of the world which took extremist turns since the former Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and subsequent diplomatic and political gaffes caused by our continued control of the defense forces which remained in the Saudi and Kuwaiti Kingdoms following the end of the first Persian Gulf War in 1991.

The Saudi Royal family wanted the US and Coalition forces to remain, but due to our ingorance of the Islamic military protocols which have been in place since the 6th Century and the period surrounding the Crusades, we should have remained as guests and placed the defense forces which remained at the request of the Royal Families and Emirs under the titular command of generals appointed by the King of Saudi Arabia and the King of Jordan. Had that been done properly most Muslims would not have perceived us as occupiers, just as they perceived the Soviets in Afghanistan who we assisted them to oust by employing Northern Alliance, Mujahadeen and “al Qaeda” volunteers.

We were wrong in our appoach in 1991 and in 1993 the first WTC attact took place. We should stegnthen our ties with peoples of the ME by assisting them to achieve regional cooperative interdependence without the need for violent reaction towards our attempts to be ligitimate passive benefactors and guest protectors of THEIR SOVEREIGNTY.

The articel discussed American POWs during WWII who were subjected to waterboarding by the Japanese, it would be interesting to see if there exists any documentaion of military intelligence and academic researchers on the damage done versus the benefits allegedly obtained.

The Nazis documented their experiment on Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs et al extremely rigorously and those documents remain available in collecions of books printed some several decades ago on the use of torture and physical trauma deliberately inflicted to study teh effects of ice water immersion and the approximate survical time of victimes, mutilations to test various survival times and rates of gangrenous infection develpment, they also tested the effects of high altitude exposure to freezing cold and oxygen deprrivation in unpressurized aircraft cabins to see how long their victims would survice…. The Japanese contaminated the shrapnel in grenades and mortar roulds and then detonated them in pits containing US, ANZAC, and other allied POWs….


Nov 05, 2010 3:00am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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