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“No, I said I’d only waterboard if I HAD to, and then only for 20 minutes….”

April 16, 2009

The Obama Administration released some previously top secret documents about tactics used by the CIA today, at the same time that he promised those who implemented these tactics immunity from prosecution.

I make no judgment on the latter, though I do wonder to myself whether the same tactics described in these memos will continue over in Bagram, where Obama has decided habeas corpus doesn’t apply. Just, you know, idle curiosity.

So yeah, the memos released today indicate that the practitioner–can we use that term?–seeking advice on the legality of his methods was only going to resort to waterboarding if the first 9 questionably-torturous-please-do-advise methods didn’t work. And even then, the guy told the lawyers, “it is likely that this procedure would not last for more than 20 minutes in any one application.”

But here’s my favorite bit from the documents so far. (And read the whole graph. Just trust me):

“Pain and Suffering” as used [in the law prohibiting torture] is best understood as a single concept, not distinct concepts of “pain” as distinguished from “suffering.”…The waterboard, which inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever, does not, in our view, inflict “sever pain or suffering.” Even if one were to parse the statute more finely to attempt to treat “suffering” as a distinct concept, the waterboard could not be said to inflict severe suffering.”

But the last sentence is the best. Wait for it…

“The waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering.”

I’ll give you more on this when I’ve read all 60 pages, and done a roundup of the blogs.


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