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Jerry Shenk


Waterboarding Vs. Vaporization

by Jerry Shenk
 

A month ago, Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the CIA's interrogation programs after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In assembling the report, Democrats led by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein spoke to no one at the CIA. In the pursuit of their apparently predetermined findings, they relied solely on documents and chose to not interview CIA personnel.

Although waterboarding was centrally featured, the report didn't dispute the CIA's contention that only three detainees, including the 9/11 mastermind, were subject to that nonlethal interrogation method, or that only a relatively small number of detainees were subjected to methods involving sound disturbance, sleep deprivation or temperature excursions.
They made no attempt to verify CIA claims that interrogations prevented additional attacks and ignored that members of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were briefed on interrogation methods and the careful legal analyses that authorized them.

In today's poisonous political environment, it's a reasonable conclusion that Senate Democrats took a cynical opportunity to "discredit" a CIA program launched by a Republican administration responsible for protecting America after the terrorist attacks.

Unsurprisingly, Senate Democrats said nothing about President Barack Obama's policy of targeted drone assassinations.

According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, drone attacks have killed between 2,400 and 4,000 people in Pakistan and an additional 350 to 500 people in Yemen. President George W. Bush authorized 51 strikes in four years. The Obama administration has "markedly stepped up the use of drones." Since Obama's 2009 inauguration, 330 strikes have been launched in Pakistan alone.

According to the bureau, casualties of the drone strikes include 480 to more than 1,000 civilians in Pakistan and Yemen.

Senate Democrats were silent on the question of how assassinating suspected terrorists – and nearby noncombatants, including women and children – with drone-launched missiles is morally or legally different from or superior to waterboarding a confessed terrorist in custody at Guantanamo Bay, especially since the waterboarded suspects survived the interrogation and may have provided critical information.

In fact, Americans had no opportunity to interrogate suspects killed by drones. Any knowledge of terrorist networks was incinerated with them. But, under interrogation, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, appears to have offered information about other planned terrorist operations.

Is waterboarding high-level terror suspects worse than bombing them without interrogation? Is one method more or less moral than the other? Waterboarding or vaporization?

Innocent suspects survive waterboarding, but if the wrong target is blown up, there is no "do-over."

Missiles kill everyone in the blast zone, even innocents, but, other than encouraging candor among them, waterboarding has no residual effect on other nearby suspects.

There are many hypocrisies displayed in the Senate Democrats' report on the CIA's interrogation programs; none are comparable to their silence on Obama's targeted drone killings, a policy the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and one-time anti-war senator is personally directing.

After he leaves office, perhaps another congressional committee should examine drone strikes' morality and legality.


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