Lifesaving Device
Waterboarding should remain in America's interrogation toolbox.


Deroy Murdock

Among others, Zubaydah identified:

Omar al-Faruq, an agent of Jemaah Islamiya, al-Qaeda’s Indonesian branch. Information he provided caused U.S. officials to raise America’s threat level from Elevated to High in September 2002.

Rahim al-Nashiri, al-Qaeda’s Arabian Peninsula operations chief, trained terrorists in Afghanistan and led al-Qaeda’s October 12, 2000, bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen. That attack killed 17 American sailors and injured 40 others. On October 6, 2002, al-Nashiri’s men bombed the French tanker MV Limburg, killing a Bulgarian sailor and spilling 90,000 barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Aden.

Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a key 9/11 organizer, studied with hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah in Hamburg, Germany. While he tried and failed to join his comrades after they moved to America, he was a liaison between al-Qaeda leaders and Atta, and provided several hijackers funds and travel arrangements. When arrested in Karachi, Pakistan in September 2002, bin al-Shibh already had recruited four new hijackers to smack jets into London’s Heathrow Airport.

Zubaydah’s and bin al-Shibh’s confessions led Americans to 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. After his March 2003 arrest in Pakistan, the self-described “head of the al-Qaeda Military Committee” stayed mum for months. But after just 90 seconds of waterboarding, KSM started to sing. He helped U.S. officials find or prosecute at least six major terrorists, including:

Hambali, the Muslim fanatic who slaughtered 202 innocent vacationers in two Bali nightclubs.

Iyman Faris, convicted of plotting to cut the Brooklyn Bridge’s cables with torches so it would tumble into the East River.

Yazid Sufaat, a 9/11 conspirator. Page 151 of The 9-11 Commission Report explains: “Sufaat would spend several months attempting to cultivate anthrax for al Qaeda in a laboratory he helped set up near the Kandahar airport.”

Kiriakou’s attitude today seems to be, as’s Jacob Laksin, puts it: “Waterboarding works. So, let’s stop using it.”

“I think that waterboarding is probably something that we shouldn’t be in the business of doing,” Kiriakou said. But then he added: “What happens if we don’t waterboard a person, and we don’t get that nugget of information? I would have trouble forgiving myself.”

For all the hair pulling over waterboarding today, the Washington Post explained December 9 that top Senate and House leaders, including then-House Democratic chief Nancy Pelosi of California, were briefed on CIA interrogation tactics — among them: waterboarding. With the sole, reported exception of Rep. Jane Harman (D., Calif.), key Republicans and Democrats were enthused, or at least quiescent, about all of this.

“Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing,” said Porter Goss, former House intelligence chairman and then Director of Central Intelligence from 2004 to 2006. “And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement.”

One American official at a September 2002 waterboarding discussion recalls that Republican and Democratic congressional leaders attended. “But there was no objecting, no hand wringing.” On the contrary, the Washington Post’s Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen reported, “The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough.”

The same liberals and Democrats convulsing over waterboarding today barely twitched when their deity, William Jefferson Clinton, addressed this matter. As Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz recalled in the October 17, 2006, Los Angeles Times, Clinton would get tough with terror suspects, provided one’s paperwork is in order. As President Clinton told National Public Radio last year:

Let’s take the best case, OK. You picked up someone you know is the No. 2 aide to Osama bin Laden. And you know they have an operation planned for the United States or some European capital in the next three days. And you know this guy knows it. Right, that’s the clearest example. And you think you can only get it out of this guy by shooting him full of some drugs or water-boarding him or otherwise working him over…

If they really believe the time comes when the only way they can get a reliable piece of information is to beat it out of someone or put a drug in their body to talk it out of ’em, then they can present it to the Foreign Intelligence Court, or some other court, just under the same circumstances we do with wiretaps. Post facto.

As September 11 fades from view, Democrats have elevated Bush hatred into a religion that trumps national security. Sadder still, some normally reasonable Republicans — like senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina — naively attack waterboarding on the theory that it is unnecessary and that coping with the public-relations challenge of explaining its importance to the world is a more grave threat than seeing Americans dismembered in terror attacks that waterboarding could help stop.

McCain suggested in CNN/YouTube’s November 28 debate that the interrogation techniques in the Army Field Manual “are humane and yet effective,” and nothing else is necessary. Humane? Yes. Effective? Not always. (Pages 5-21 to 5-23 of the Manual discusses prohibited interrogation methods.)

With all due respect and appreciation for what McCain endured as a P.O.W., a 35-second interval of discomfort for someone who possesses information on active conspiracies to murder Americans is hugely different from months or years of being hung from a wall for trying to protect South Vietnam from Communism. McCain should understand this, but does not. What the Viet Cong did to him was abominable. What America did to Zubaydah, KSM, and an unidentified third terrorist leader was a necessary, rare, and non-injurious tactic for preserving human freedom and protecting the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent American civilians. Unlike McCain, Zubaydah and KSM survived this treatment without scars or damaged joints. Not a bad trade-off.

McCain contends that waterboarding is unreliable, since detainees will say anything to make it stop. Yes, they will say anything. As Zubaydah and KSM prove, they even will tell the truth. The veracity of such statements easily can be verified by following leads that such terrorists offer. If other terrorists pop up in spots where detainees said to look for them, then waterboarding once again will have worked.

McCain also argues that America must reject waterboarding, lest our enemies waterboard U.S. GIs. This notion gets all wet when one realizes how difficult it is to waterboard someone who Islamofascists already have beheaded.

Waterboarding should remain in America’s interrogation toolbox. The alternative is to let these assassins stay tight-lipped while the civilized world sits around and waits for the bombs to rip. This is exactly what happened on December 11. While official Washington again burst into tears over waterboarding and fretted over the CIA’s foolishly erased interrogation tapes, al-Qaeda in Islamic North Africa killed 37 in twin bombings in Algeria. Al-Qaeda murdered 17 at a target it dubbed “the international infidels den” — the Algiers office of a New York-based peace organization called the United Nations.

U.S. and allied soldiers and spies could arrest top terrorists aware of conspiracies as bad as or worse than the Special Day of Infidel Doom imagined above. If America is serious about preventing these evil, vicious bastards from murdering hundreds or thousands of us and our friends — as they already have and promise to do — waterboarding must remain a weapon this nation proudly wields to defend itself and its allies. If not, those who weep about waterboarding information-rich mass murderers like Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheik Mohammed should volunteer to collect the body parts of American citizens blasted to bits because we flinched from this modest technique to squeeze vital operational intelligence from captured Islamic butchers.

– Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace.


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