Monday, April 20, 2009

Waterboarding WORKS!

Marcy reports that interrogators waterboarded Khaled Sheik Mohammed (widely considered the most important 9/11 plotter) all of 183 times. She raises the obvious question: Just how effective is the technique, if it took so long to break him?

Another question: Just what, exactly, constitutes "breaking"? Here's a detail which everyone (including Marcy) seems to have forgotten:
Khaled Shiekh Mohammed (after being waterboarded) confessed to planning a terror attack against Washington State's Plaza Bank, which was not founded until 2006 -- well after his capture.
Keep that in mind as you read the following, from the report of 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...
My conclusion? One of the lower-level detainees coughed up the Plaza Bank plan (a "plan" based on who-knows-what degree of reality) and they waterboarded KSM until he "confirmed" it.

I've no sympathy for KSM. He almost certainly did plan the WTC attacks. What I'm concerned about is the truth. Of what value is waterboarding if it renders reality more malleable?

KSM was privy to much important data -- data which may have been lost forever after his mind was transformed into something approximating Gerber's mush.

For example, he might have been able to explain why his former roommate and fellow terrorist Abdul Hakim Murad (who helped come up with the Bojinka scheme) received flight training at Richmor aviation -- a CIA connected firm accused of participating in "extraordinary rendition." Richmor also owned the Gulfstream II jet used in one the great "coke jet" mysteries we've looked at in the past.

I'd like to ask KSM about that, if KSM were still in his right mind. Why that flight school?

Also, what of the reports placing KSM in Paraguay?

There have been persistent reports that one trainer of the 9/11 hijackers, Omar Saeed Sheikh, worked for British intelligence. I'd like to ask KSM if he knows anything about that, too.

And just what was KSM's relationship with Mehmood Ahmad Mehmood, the former head of Pakistani intelligence (and still a powerful figure in that country)?

Yeah, there are all sorts of questions we'd like to ask KSM. But now that he has undergone 183 waterboardings, his answers may not be very reliable or coherent.

And perhaps that was the point all along.


Hoarseface said...

"But now that he has undergone 183 waterboardings, his answers may not be very reliable or coherent."

Now that he has undergone 183 waterboardings IN ONE MONTH. KSM has spent many months in custody. I wonder how many waterboarding sessions he's undergone total?

Anonymous said...

IIRC that was 183 times in one month

(I may be mistaken, my mind is like mush these days)

Lori said...

I have a friend who was head of interrogation training for the British Counter-Terrorism Force and he had personally, as he put it, faced interrogation from both sides. After 9/11 and the eruption of the discussion about torture, I asked him about it's viability. He said what everyone else says. Terrorists, just like our soldiers, are trained to withstand torture. They give you false information up front, which means you waste a lot of time on goose chases. By the time you get to the real information, the group or cell to which the terrorist belonged has changed everything that the now-captive knew. And some terrorists are edified by torture - the worse it gets, the more they shut down. Particularly in the infamous ticking time bomb situation, you could not use torture effectively because the terrorist knows that they must only hold on for a specific amount of time and then they've won. The worst case scenario is that the terrorist dies and you never learn anything that he knew. The penultimate scenario is that the captive's limbic system is so utterly destroyed by the pain and the sleep deprivation that he is rendered incapable of providing reliable information - which is, I suspect, what happens to someone who has been waterboarded over 150 times.

It's become axiomatic but bears repeating, the purpose of torture is to gain false information to use politically. It has no other real use. And that's how it was useful to the Bush administration as well.

My friend is a gifted performer and singer and one of his favorite tales about interrogation begins with him walking in to the room, with a newspaper under his arm and offering the sports page to the captive. He then complains about the other Brits and offers him coffee. He tells the guy he just doesn't want to talk. He wants to read his newspaper and drink his coffee. Every time the prisoner attempted to talk to him, he told the guy he didn't want to talk. By the end of the ten hours, the guy was laughing. My friend went home, the next guy went in, and the captive just started talking. My friend emphasized that you get reliable information when you "build bonds".

FYI, I asked what it is you do in the ticking time bomb situation, and not surprisingly, he didn't want to answer that question - so I can't help you there.

Anonymous said...

"I've no sympathy for KSM. He almost certainly did plan the WTC attacks."

Based on what do you know he did plan the attacks, on his confession or the credibility of the accusers ? Maybe he's only another Oswald.

Anonymous said...

Torture is an effective technique for obtaining confessions. The subject will say anything in order to get the torture to stop.

As a means of obtaining information it is unreliable, because the subject will say anything in order to get the torture to stop.

Anonymous said...

Adding to my's comment above:

When put under duress, humans become more sensitive to small cues (this is an evolved survival mechanism) and so under torture, even if no ordinary clues are given, they are much more able figure out from their questioners what is expected of them, and give it to them.

Even when there is no intent on their part to produce a false confession, interrogators consciously or subconsciously go into sessions with the subject uses the aformentioned hightened awareness to create a story which plays into those preconceptions, even if only partly.

The only way to get valid information is to build trust over time; in fact, under Bill Clinton in the 90's the very existence of Al-Qaeda was first revealed by one of the 1993 WTC bombers in just this way. It took longer (years), but the difference is that the info he gave up was real.

Sergei Rostov

Anonymous said...

I do not oppose torture of anyone out of sympathy to the person tortured, per se.

I do not oppose capital punishment out of sympathy to those so sentenced.

Universal rights, and universal truths, do not rely on individual circumstances to make them right or wrong, nor indeed can individual circumstances make them right or wrong.

Among the most sickening and illogical 'arguments' I hear on the right is to compare these tortures to the alleged crimes of those being tortured, and when finding them less heinous, thinking their treatment is proved legitimate.

Not only is this an illegitimate 'argument,' but referring to alleged and even real behaviors to 'justify' this treatment is prejudicial to the point of poisoning rationality.