WASHINGTON - The nation's intelligence chief says waterboarding "would be torture" if used against him or if someone under interrogation actually was taking water into his lungs.
But Mike McConnell, in a magazine interview, declined for legal reasons to say whether the technique categorically should be considered torture.
"If it ever is determined to be torture, there will be a huge penalty to be paid for anyone engaging in it," McConnell told The New Yorker, which published a 16,000-word article Sunday on the director of national intelligence.
The comments come as the House Intelligence Committee investigates the CIA's destruction of videotaped interrogations of two al-Qaida suspects. The tapes were made in 2002 and destroyed three years later, over fears they would leak. They depicted the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniques against two of the three men known to have been waterboarded by the CIA.
As McConnell describes it, a prisoner is strapped down with a wash cloth over his face and water is dripped into his nose.
"If I had water draining into my nose, oh God, I just can't imagine how painful! Whether it's torture by anybody else's definition, for me it would be torture," McConnell told the magazine.
Here is an excerpt from an October 5, 2006, article entitled Waterboarding Historically Controversial:
Inside the CIA, waterboarding is cited as the technique that got Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the prime plotter of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to begin to talk and provide information -- though "not all of it reliable," a former senior intelligence official said.
The reason it is not reliable is because the "detainee" will say anything to get the abuse to stop.
In another excerpt from Waterboarding Historically Controversial, we hear some about the history of this "enhanced interrogation technique":
On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post published a front-page photograph of a U.S. soldier supervising the questioning of a captured North Vietnamese soldier who is being held down as water was poured on his face while his nose and mouth were covered by a cloth. The picture, taken four days earlier near Da Nang, had a caption that said the technique induced "a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk."
The article said the practice was "fairly common" in part because "those who practice it say it combines the advantages of being unpleasant enough to make people talk while still not causing permanent injury."
The picture reportedly led to an Army investigation.
Twenty-one years earlier, in 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.
"Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. "We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II," he said.
Water-boarding is considered a war crime.
For another report on waterboarding, here are some excerpts from yax-057 Sime Road Camp:
A REPORT ON JAPANESE ATROCITIES
Commission appointed by the authorities of Sime Road Internment Camp to record evidence from Internees who were arrested by the Japanese M.P. in consequence of a raid on Changi Camp on 10/10/43 first sat on Thursday 30/8/45 and completed the record of evidence on Sunday evening 2/9/45, having taken statements from 36 of the survivors. It was considered urgent to record this evidence prior to the dispersal of the Camp, which it is believed might take place as early as the 3rd September 1945.
(2) ... Water torture. There were 2 forms of water torture. In the first the victim was tied or held down on his back and a cloth placed over his nose and mouth. Water was then poured on the cloth. Interrogation proceeded and the victim was beated if he did not reply. As he opened his mouth to breathe or to answer questions, water went down his throat until he could not hold anymore. Sometimes he was then beaten over his distended stomach , sometimes a Jap. jumped on his stomach or sometimes pressed on it with his foot. In the 2nd, the victim was tied lengthways on a ladder face upwards with a rung of the ladder across his throat and his head below the ladder. In his position he was slid head first into a tub of water and kept there until almost drowned. After being revived interrogation continued and he would be re-immersed.
S. N. King M.C.S. Chairman
N. S. Alexander M.S. Ph.D. Prof: of Physics.
W. L. Blythe M.C.S.
Sime Road Internment Camp
3rd. September 1945.
Under Bush's leadership, the United States of America is now using interrogation techniques that were described as war crimes in the wake of World War II.
It is interesting to contrast Bush-43 with his father, Bush-41.
Bush-41 is a war hero. He served in World War II, and, on September 2, 1944, one year to the day before the war in the Pacific ended, his aircraft was hit, and he had to bail out. He spent some time in a raft before he was recovered by US forces.
Had the Japanese gotten hold of Bush-41, they may very well have used the same "enhanced interrogation techniques" on him that his son, Bush-43, now allows to be used on "detainees".
Bush-41 is a war hero; Bush-43 is a war criminal.