a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

83 + 183 = prosecute them

Posted by Thomas Nephew on April 20th, 2009

When reports of waterboarding began to surface a couple of years ago, I remember telling a friend that I couldn’t believe the Bush administration had been able to make me feel sorry even for someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (or “KSM” in many reports), but it had, and I kind of held that against them. It turned out I had no idea.

As of last weekend,  Marcy Wheeler (“emptywheel” at firedoglake) does:

According to the May 30, 2005 Bradbury memo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.

The verbatim sentence from that memo:

The CIA used the waterboard “at least 83 times during August 2002” in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.

Of course, feeling sorry for an alleged terrorist isn’t the point. There are many points to be made about this, but so far the chief ones to me are:

Prosecute Them
My lawn sign (changed from ‘Impeach them’ on 2/12/09)

  • Our ability to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Abu Zubaydah on the basis of any information gained through these methods is irretrievably impaired.  At least it ought to be — for the rest of our sakes, not for his.
  • I’m not a lawyer, but I should think even subsequent confessions under these circumstances would be tainted by someone’s mental state after repeated waterboarding.
  • Waterboarding can’t possibly “work” if it “has to be” repeated  one hundred and eighty three times.  This was an instrument of torture for its own sake, not for information, and this was deeply sick, criminal behavior.
  • Waterboarding was used on Abu Zubaydah after he’d given what information he had, according an April 17 report by the New York Times’s Scott Shane (emphases added):

    The first use of waterboarding and other rough treatment against a prisoner from Al Qaeda was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew, according to former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum.The escalation to especially brutal interrogation tactics against the prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, including confining him in boxes and slamming him against the wall, was ordered by officials at C.I.A. headquarters based on a highly inflated assessment of his importance, interviews and a review of newly released documents show.

    Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said.

  • The technique used appears to have contravened even the allegedly ‘legal’ technique using cloth over the air passages to supposedly prevent inhaling water.  As Marcy Wheeler points out in other posts, the technique is noted in the same memo okaying the procedure, without noting prior memos limiting approval to a different method.
  • People who engaged in this, saw this and did nothing to oppose it, and/or green lighted it with legal memoranda are all criminally culpable and belong in cells next to KSM.  Do we really want people who executed or approved 266 waterboardings running around loose?
  • Finally, I don’t give a good god-d*** whether Obama agrees with me about any of this or not.  If he protects these people, he has officially become Part Of The Problem.
You can add your name to various anti-torture and pro-prosecution petitions at the following sites:

* It bears repeating at this point that Ron Suskind reported (in his book “One Percent Solution”) that FBI personnel considered Abu Zubaydah to be an “insane, certifiable, split personality” — and at the time he was captured, based on diaries he kept and interviews at the time. Over time, CIA downgraded his significance in the Al Qaeda hierarchy as well.  The prime impetus for this came from the top: “‘I said he was important,’ Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. ‘You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?’ ‘No sir, Mr. President,’ Tenet replied.”

POSTSCRIPT: It may not belong in this post, but it’s my blog so why not: note that once again, it was one of those dirty bloggers who pollute our discourse, parasitize honest newspaper work, and divide our great nation who noticed what legions of trained journalists had not.  Scott Shane of the New York Times attempts to explain: “The sentences in the memo containing that information appear to have been redacted from some copies but are visible in others. Initial news reports about the memos in The New York Times and other publications did not include the numbers.”

3 Responses to “83 + 183 = prosecute them”

  1. RobertNAtl Says:

    Criminal defense attorneys across the country can, from now on, urge juries to “look forward, not backward” and to avoid any conviction that could be interpreted in any way as “retribution.”

  2. Nell Says:

    Would you consider adding the ACLU’s petition for a special counsel? They’ve done the heavy lifting for so long, since Congress abandoned its job (and worse, actively obstructed efforts to protect prisoners and bring accountability).

  3. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Done. Knew I’d missed somebody…

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