Thursday, November 01, 2007

Let's Get Clear on Waterboarding

Yesterday, The NY Daily News ran an op-ed from a former Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) Master Instructor and Chief of Training.

I know the waterboard personally and intimately. Our staff was required to undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception.
I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of
hundreds of people. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school's interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques employed by the Army and the CIA for its terror suspects. What is less frequently reported is that our training was designed to show how an evil totalitarian enemy would use torture at the slightest whim.


Having been subjected to this technique, I can say: It is risky but
not entirely dangerous when applied in training for a very short period. However, when performed on an unsuspecting prisoner, waterboarding is a torture technique - without a doubt. There is no way to sugarcoat it.


In the media, waterboarding is called "simulated drowning,"
but that's a misnomer. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim IS drowning.

(Emphasis is from the original quote.)

I have had the experience of being in a simulated POW experience a couple of times. As Military Intelligence linguist we did this annually as a joint training exercise combined with the Military Police and Military Intelligence Interrogators.

While never submitted to anything like what goes on at SERES, I have been shoved, hogtied, left in the sun with no water, been forced to kneel on gravel for hours, and much more.

I have written a play about these experiences, but it isn't finished yet. I started it before 9/11, and now, with the torture debate so critical and present, it seems very topical, but it needs some changes. Though I did have, at its core, an idea of examining what confinement and information and intelligence gathering mean to us as a society.

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