Skip to comments.CIA Lawyer: Waterboarding Wasn't Torture Then And Isn't Torture Now
Posted on 01/07/2014 10:38:43 AM PST by nickcarraway
In the years following the Sept. 11 attacks, many Americans heard the term "waterboarding" for the first time a technique aimed to simulate the act of drowning. Waterboarding was at the center of the debate about what the CIA called "enhanced interrogation techniques" and what critics called "torture."
John Rizzo, acting general counsel of the CIA in the years after Sept. 11, 2001, has written a memoir about his three decades at the agency. He talks with NPR's Renee Montagne about Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA.
On why he decided to join the CIA as a lawyer
Reading the revelations in the media of the findings of the ... Church Committee, led by Sen. Frank Church [D-Idaho], it exposed for the first time a number of eyebrow-raising CIA activities from the '50s and '60s, including assassination plots against foreign leaders, drug experiments on unsuspecting U.S. citizens. ... It was a rather breathtaking array of misdeeds. ... And I was reading it as a young lawyer and thinking to myself, "I have no idea if the CIA has lawyers, but if they don't, they're probably going to need some now."
On when "enhanced interrogation techniques" began
It started a few months after [Sept. 11]. That was when the agency captured the first big fish of the al-Qaida command structure. ... Abu Zubaydah was thought to know if there were any ongoing plans or plots against the homeland. ... He was actually captured in Pakistan after a furious gunfight. He didn't come quietly. He was wounded fairly severely. ... As soon as he pulled through, he, basically, in the view of our experts, he was holding back and that he would never be forthcoming with what he knew if only the normal question-and-answer, so-called Joe Friday approach was taken, and so it was decided that extraordinary measures needed to be considered.
Keep in mind ... the context of the times here. The country was still in the throes of dread and fear that another attack was coming. Everyone in Washington on the hill in the government and I believe a large majority of the American people were demanding that the next attack on the homeland be averted at all costs, so the pressure was intense.
John Rizzo is the CIA's former acting general counsel. His new memoir is Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA.i John Rizzo is the CIA's former acting general counsel. His new memoir is Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA.
Jay Mallin/Simon & Schuster On the detailed list of interrogation techniques
These were techniques that I had never seen before. Reduced to writing, they're quite graphic and quite detailed, and I have to take responsibility for that because I was determined that the Justice Department, whether they approved them or disapproved of them, would have the most no-holds-barred, almost detached description of some very aggressive maneuvers. So it was I and the rest of the CIA leadership who insisted that each of these techniques be spelled out, that there be no misunderstanding between us and the Department of Justice about how these techniques would be administered. ...
[The descriptions were written by] people in the counterterrorism center of the CIA, composed of operatives, analysts, psychologists all focused on the counterterrorism target.
On one technique that was considered to be even worse than waterboarding
As you may have surmised, because my book had to go through pre-publication review at the CIA, I was told that I had to not go into detail about what that one particularly gruesome technique was. I guess what I can say to you is: When I saw what waterboarding was, I had never heard that word before, but this technique I thought was even more chilling and scary than waterboarding which Lord knows I thought was quite chilling on its own right. It was very rough ... something that would come out of an Edgar Allan Poe plotline. ...
The Justice Department, when they called me up, they basically said: Look, we have the opinion ready on the rest of the techniques, but for this particular one, we're not sure we can approve it. And with some sense of relief I told the Justice Department: Why don't we just drop it?
In fact, it was I who sought the Justice Department's legal opinion. ... I thought it was important. I'd been around the agency long enough to know that proceeding down this path posed extraordinary peril in the future for the institution and the people who would be involved in the program, including myself. ... One of the motivations, considerations I had was to provide detailed and durable legal cover for our employees who were going to be operating in good faith under the conclusion of the Justice Department and their chief lawyer, me, that these things were legal.
On whether, in retrospect, he believes waterboarding is a form of torture
No. I'm a lawyer, and torture is legally defined in U.S. law. If I had concluded or, more importantly, if the Justice Department had concluded that these techniques constitute torture, we would never have done them. So I can't say they were torture. I didn't concede it was torture then, and I don't concede that it's torture now.
Read an excerpt of Company Man
Of course not. Under Obama, NOTHING is illegal, immoral or torture. He hath sayeth so.
Or to quote Humpty Dumpty from Through the Looking Glass :
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to meanneither more nor less."
It's only torture if the government has defined it to be torture (with a very loose interpretation of that definition by the CIA). No other definitions apply.
Let’s waterboard Caliph Baraq, Queen Hillary, and Leon Panetta about Benghazi!
You've got that right. A CIA man has given the thumbs up to a CIA technique, so I guess it's case closed.
So "waterboarding" has been around since at least 1976.
Like everything else, the Bush White House ceded control of this narrative to the Left.
Ergo: Waterboarding under Republican President = Bad; Waterboarding under Democrat President = Good.
Waterboarding is not torture. Many servicemen underwent it at SERE school.
Weatherboarding definitely does not fit a classical definition of torture.
That said, it seems so profoundly discomfiting that I can see it as within a gray area.
The left, however includes a great many things which are merely annoying when they accuse the Bush administration of “torture”.
The Bushbots who supported this have no credibility now.
We sure have a lot of born-again civil libertarians around here.
Well if it is, then I'm one of hundreds of thousands of Sailors and Marines who have a hell of a lawsuit waiting.
Chances are every pilot and aircrewman in fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, and special forces ground pounders have been water boarded.
I know they tried to give everyone a taste of it my SERE school class (Class of '77) - I got lucky. Twice.
Water boarding ain't "torture"... these bed-wetters don't know "torture".
When I think of torture, I think blowtorches, pliers, car batteries, etc.. Things that can actually cause physical damage and/or death. AFAIK, no one has ever suffered any permanent physical damage or died from waterboarding. I’m sure that it’s a very unpleasant procedure, but I don’t consider it torture.
Waterboarding has for generations been seen as an acceptable way to “torture” servicemen in various NATO, allied militarys, and American schools and training exercises.
> So “waterboarding” has been around since at least 1976.
No, it’s been around since at least the Korean War or before.
> Chances are every pilot and aircrewman in fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, and special forces ground pounders have been water boarded.
Yes, I have, in 1969, during training.
It was used by the Spanish Inquisition 500 years ago.
Nobody ever suspects the Spanish Inquisition.
Nobody ever suspects the Spanish Inquisition.
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