Tough Interrogations Saved Lives: Debunking Allegations of Bush-Era "Torture"


By Mike Griffith, Staff Writer

In some quarters of the media, including several recent articles here on VT, we continue to see the sensational claim that the Bush administration approved the use "torture" in the interrogations of high-value Al Qaeda operatives, and that therefore those interrogations were "war crimes."  We see Bush administration internal memos about tough interrogation methods described as "the Bush torture memos," "bombshell revelations about torture," etc., etc.  I have criticized most of the policies of the Bush administration, but these "torture" allegations are unfounded.  In point of fact, what the critics keep calling "torture" were actually tough-but-valid interrogation methods that saved lives and shed valuable light on terrorist operations, and these methods fell well short of what can rationally be called "torture," much less "war crimes."


The interrogation method that critics cite as the worst example of this supposed "torture" is waterboarding.  First of all, waterboarding is not torture.  Waterboarding does no physical harm–it merely scares the living daylights out of you.  Furthermore, untold thousands of people are alive today because we waterboarded high-value Al Qaeda operatives.  Only after they were waterboarded did these terrorists give up valuable information that saved lives and exposed  Al Qaeda cells and operations.  For example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (aka KSM), the man who directed the 9/11 attacks, refused to provide any useful information–until he was waterboarded.  Once he was waterboarded, he talked freely, and the information he provided enabled us to capture six major terrorists, at least two of whom were in the process of planning more attacks.

So what is "torture"?  Shoving needles under fingernails, cutting skin and pouring acid into the wound, breaking arms and legs and refusing to set the broken limbs, poking out an eye, pulling teeth with no pain killer, amputating a hand or a foot–these are the kinds of actions that constitute torture, and they should never, ever be used.  But waterboarding, sleep deprivation, temporary food and water deprivation, forcing one to lie in one’s own waste for a while, making one wear clothing that is humiliating–such methods are tough, even harsh, but they fall well short of constituting torture.


By Deroy Murdock

Water-boarding makes tight-lipped terrorists talk. At least three major al Qaeda leaders reportedly have been water-boarded, most notably Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

KSM, as intelligence agencies call him, directed the September 11 attacks, which killed 2,978 people and injured at least 7356. "I am the head of the al Qaeda military committee," he told Al Jazeera in April 2002. "And yes, we did it." KSM wired money to his nephew, Ramzi Yousef, who masterminded the February 1993 World Trade Center blast that killed six and wounded 1,040. KSM and Yousef planned Operation Bojinka, a foiled 1995 scheme to explode 12 American jetliners above the Pacific. While some doubt his claim, KSM reportedly said, "I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl in the City of Karachi, Pakistan."

After U.S. and Pakistani authorities captured KSM in March 2003, he stayed mum for months, often answering questions with Koranic chants. Interrogators eventually water-boarded him–for just 90 seconds.

KSM "didn’t resist," one CIA veteran said in the August 13 New Yorker. "He sang right away." Another CIA official told ABC: "KSM lasted the longest under water-boarding, about a minute and a half, but once he broke, it never had to be used again."

KSM’s revelations helped authorities arrest at least six major terrorists:

* Ohio-based trucker Iyman Faris pleaded guilty May 1, 2003, to providing material support to terrorists. He secured 2,000 sleeping bags for al Qaeda and delivered cash, cell phones and airline tickets to its men. He also conspired to derail a train near Washington, D.C., and use acetylene torches to sever the Brooklyn Bridge’s cables, plunging it into the East River.

* Jemaah Islamiya (JI) agent Rusman "Gun Gun" Gunawan was convicted of transferring money to bomb Jakarta’s Marriott Hotel, killing 12 and injuring 150.

* Hambali, Gunawan’s brother and ring-leader of JI’s October 2002 Bali nightclub blasts, killed 202 and wounded 209.

* Suspected al Qaeda agent Majid Khan, officials say, provided money to JI terrorists and plotted to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, detonate U.S. gas stations and poison American water reservoirs.

* Jose Padilla, who trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan, was convicted last August of providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to kidnap, maim and murder people overseas. Padilla, suspected of but not charged with planning a radioactive "dirty bomb" attack, reportedly learned to incinerate residential high-rises by igniting apartments filled with natural gas.

* Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, an American-educated biochemist and JI member, reportedly provided hijackers Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi housing in Kuala Lumpur during a January 2000 9/11 planning summit. He also is suspected of employing "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui. "The 9/11 Commission Report" (page 151) states: "Sufaat would spend several months attempting to cultivate anthrax for al Qaeda in a laboratory he helped set up near the Kandahar airport."

Imagine how many innocent people these six Islamo-fascists (and perhaps others) would have murdered had interrogators left KSM unwater-boarded and his secrets unuttered.

Though clearly uncomfortable, water-boarding loosens lips without causing permanent physical injuries (and unlikely even temporary ones). If terrorists suffer long-term nightmares about water-boarding, better that than more Americans’ crying themselves to sleep after their loved ones have been shredded by bombs or baked in skyscrapers.

In short, there is nothing "repugnant" about water-boarding.(

President Obama has now banned all harsh interrogation methods.  This is a naive, irresponsible move.  From now on, the only methods we can use on high-value Al Qaeda operatives are the toothless methods allowed in the Army Field Manual on Interrogation.  Such methods were never designed for the interrogation of trained Al Qaeda operatives.  Al Qaeda laughs at the Army Field Manual on Interrogation.  In fact, Al Qaeda has had a copy of the manual published on some of its websites for years. 

So now, if we capture a key Al Qaeda operative who has information about a pending attack, literally, quite literally, the only thing we can do is try to talk him into giving us that information.  If you think I’m exaggerating, go read the Army Field Manual on Interrogation for yourself (link provided below).

Other Sources for Further Study:

Ex-CIA Agent: Waterboarding Saved Lives

Ex-CIA Agent: Waterboarding "Saved Lives"

No Waterboarding–Even to Save Planeloads of People

"Special Methods" Save Lives 

George Tenet: "Aggressive Interrogation" Saved Lives 

Army Field Manual on Interrogation 


Visit Mike Griffith’s Real Issues Home Page




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