Note to torture apologists: The military banned waterboarding trainees during Bush administration

Note to torture apologists: The military banned waterboarding trainees during Bush administration

When the occupier of the Oval Office decided to promote torture architect Gina Haspel to be CIA Director, the only person in Congress to have been tortured, Sen. John McCain responded in a tweet: “The torture of detainees in U.S. custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history. The Senate must do its job in scrutinizing the record & involvement of Gina Haspel in this disgraceful program.” To which the spawn of Satan replied:

Because McCain needed Cheney to monstersplain torture to him. But what Mini-Lucifer did not include was the fact that one of the primary torture techniques Haspel oversaw at a secret prison in Thailand, waterboarding, had not been used by several branches by 2002 and was banned by the military entirely in 2007 because it was deemed too brutal. Something the Pentagon failed to make public.

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The military decided waterboarding “provided no instructional or training benefit to the student,” Thomas Crosson, a Department of Defense spokesman, told HuffPost in an email. Crosson declined to release the 2007 directive forbidding the practice, citing classification issues. The existence of the document has not been previously reported, and HuffPost has requested a copy of it under the Freedom of Information Act.

The military’s decision made sense, veteran military interrogator and intelligence officer Steven Kleinman told HuffPost. Waterboarding “teaches failure,” he said. “No one succeeds. They can’t teach a strategy during that. Literally, it was absolutely so painful.” [...]

SERE students were typically waterboarded once, for less than a minute. And by 2002, the year Zubaydah was waterboarded, the practice was already prohibited at SERE schools run by the Army, Air Force, and Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, according to a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report.

The problem with waterboarding SERE students was that too many trainees broke, said James Mitchell, a psychologist who was deeply involved in SERE and later reverse-engineered it to develop the CIA’s torture program. “We thought it was too effective,” Mitchell wrote in a 2016 book defending his role in the CIA torture program. When members of the military were waterboarded, they “capitulated, even if it cost them their jobs,” Mitchell continued

They broke and what SERE taught them Malcolm Nance, a retired interrogator, told HuffPost was that torture isn’t effective for getting real intelligence. “The entire [SERE] program is designed to show you how it doesn’t work. [...] You will say whatever the interrogator wants you to say. The severity of it makes your mouth open—your desire to survive.” Students in the SERE program were also taught that the techniques being used on them were illegal, but might be used by countries who don’t adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Or a rogue administration in a country that supposedly does abide by them.
The current occupant of the Oval Office loves the idea of torture and would probably be even quicker than Cheney to authorize it. The last thing this nation—already losing all standing in the world—needs is a CIA that will enthusiastically follow his orders.