A former CIA officer who participated in the capture and questioning of the first al-Qaeda terrorist suspect to be waterboarded said yesterday that the harsh technique provided an intelligence breakthrough that "probably saved lives," but that he now regards the tactic as torture.
Zayn Abidin Muhammed Hussein abu Zubaida, the first high-ranking al-Qaeda member captured after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, broke in less than a minute after he was subjected to the technique and began providing interrogators with information that led to the disruption of several planned attacks, said John Kiriakou, who served as a CIA interrogator in Pakistan.
The waterboarding lasted about 35 seconds before Abu Zubaida broke down, according to Kiriakou, who said he was given a detailed description of the incident by fellow team members. The next day, Abu Zubaida told his captors he would tell them whatever they wanted, Kiriakou said.
I continue to harp on this issue for a couple of reasons:
1.There’s a deeply entrenched and highly influential urban legend that “torture” never works. One of the primary objections which opponents of “torture” typically raise is that torture is ineffective. It yields unreliable information since anyone will say anything under torture.
Now, if the opponents were sincere, then when we can cite cases in which “torture” did, in fact, yield reliable information, they should withdraw their objection. And if that’s their major objection, then they should drop their opposition to “torture.”
But, thus far, I haven’t seen any opponents reevaluate their opposition in light of these examples. They keep repeating the same discredited objection.
2.Is 30 seconds of waterboarding torture? I can see why someone might think that 3 hours of waterboarding is torture (although, if they had to waterboard Abu Zubaida for 3 hours to squeeze the information out of him, that’s fine with me), but to say that 30 seconds of waterboarding is torture trivializes the concept of torture. If that’s torture, then torture is grossly overrated.