Yesterday, I mentioned an article I had written about Robert Redford’s height. One of you – thanks, Jim Leff – wrote to say he had found it on-line. Well, I had no idea it was there. So I clicked around and found this one, too: “How to Invest Your Last $10,000.” Oh, how the world has changed in 35 years! And not.
And now, with apologies for the abrupt shift of focus . . . the manual on waterboarding.
“IT’S NOT TORTURE”
Whatever it is, Dick and Liz Cheney are still for it.
The estimable James Musters summarized Salon’s recent article:
Recently released internal documents reveal the controversial “enhanced interrogation” practice was far more brutal on detainees… and was administered with meticulous cruelty.
These memos show the CIA went much further than that with terror suspects, using huge and dangerous quantities of liquid over long periods of time. The CIA’s waterboarding was “different” from training for elite soldiers, according to the Justice Department document released last month. “The difference was in the manner in which the detainee’s breathing was obstructed,” the document notes. In soldier training, “The interrogator applies a small amount of water to the cloth (on a soldier’s face) in a controlled manner,” DOJ wrote. “By contrast, the agency interrogator … continuously applied large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee’s mouth and nose.”
Interrogators were instructed to start pouring water right after a detainee exhaled, to ensure he inhaled water, not air, in his next breath. An interrogator was also allowed to force the water down a detainee’s mouth and nose using his hands.
One of the more interesting revelations in the documents is the use of a saline solution in waterboarding. Why? Because the CIA forced such massive quantities of water into the mouths and noses of detainees, prisoners inevitably swallowed huge amounts of liquid – enough to conceivably kill them from hyponatremia, a rare but deadly condition in which ingesting enormous quantities of water results in a dangerously low concentration of sodium in the blood. “The CIA requires that saline solution be used instead of plain water to reduce the possibility of hyponatremia.”
The agency used so much water there was also another risk: pneumonia resulting from detainees inhaling the fluid. Saline, the CIA argued, might reduce the risk of pneumonia when this occurred. “The detainee might aspirate some of the water, and the resulting water in the lungs might lead to pneumonia,” Bradbury noted in the same memo. “To mitigate this risk, a potable saline solution is used in the procedure.”
To keep detainees alive even if they inhaled their own vomit during a session – a not-uncommon side effect of waterboarding – the prisoners were kept on a liquid diet. The agency recommended Ensure Plus.
The agency used a gurney “specially designed” to tilt backwards at a perfect angle to maximize the water entering the prisoner’s nose and mouth, intensifying the sense of choking – and to be lifted upright quickly in the event that a prisoner stopped breathing. Should a prisoner stop breathing during the procedure, the documents instructed interrogators “If the detainee is not breathing freely after the cloth is removed from his face, he is immediately moved to a vertical position in order to clear the water from his mouth, nose, and nasopharynx,” Bradbury wrote. “The gurney used for administering this technique is specially designed so that this can be accomplished very quickly if necessary.”
The CIA’s waterboarding regimen was so excruciating that agency officials found themselves grappling with an unexpected development: detainees simply gave up and tried to let themselves drown. “In our limited experience, extensive sustained use of the waterboard can introduce new risks,” the CIA’s Office of Medical Services wrote in its 2003 memo. “Most seriously, for reasons of physical fatigue or psychological resignation, the subject may simply give up, allowing excessive filling of the airways and loss of consciousness.”
It seems to say that the detainees subjected to waterboarding were also guinea pigs. The language is eerily reminiscent of the very reasons the Nuremberg Code was written in the first place. That paragraph reads as follows:
“NOTE: In order to best inform future medical judgments and recommendations, it is important that every application of the waterboard be thoroughly documented: how long each application (and the entire procedure) lasted, how much water was used in the process (realizing that much splashes off), how exactly the water was applied, if a seal was achieved, if the naso- or oropharynx was filled, what sort of volume was expelled, how long was the break between applications, and how the subject looked between each treatment.”
☞ James goes on to note: “It seems to me they were drowning them, just not intending to take it all the way to death, but if they did die (stop breathing), they then brought them back to life so they could do it again. Is it just murder, or attempted murder if you torture someone to death and then bring them back to life so you can do it again? As the writer points out, ‘It should be noted, though, that six human rights groups in 2007 released a report showing that 39 people who appeared to have gone into the CIA’s secret prison network haven’t shown up since.’ ”