…at least according to ABC News reporter Brian Ross in a very instructive interview with Bill O’Reilly the other night. It should put to rest the argument that coercive interrogation “never works,” because all it produces is falsehoods. (Excuse the long post.) On the interrogations of the 14:
O’REILLY: OK, this is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Zubata, all of these guys? All 14 were coerced. And the worst thing that they did to them, according to your report, was water boarding.
ROSS: Right, that is the most harshest of the treatments. And that’s where a man is put upside-down. They put a cellophane or a cloth over his mouth. They pour water. It gives the impression that the person is drowning.
Now some people liken it to a mock execution. It is very tough to withstand. When the CIA officers who are trained in these interrogations go through it themselves, some of them couldn’t last more than 35 to 40 seconds.
O’REILLY: Now the water boarding broke all of these guys?
ROSS: Not in every case. Some before even got to that point.
O’REILLY: OK, some when they kept them up, or they played live music, or they kept them in a cold room.
ROSS: They start with a slap, then a slap on the chest, and then the cold room, sleep deprivation, which seems to be the most effective. But for some, the water boarding is what it took.
O’REILLY: OK. Now you say the guy who held out the longest was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is the alleged mastermind behind 9/11.
ROSS: That’s right.
O’REILLY: How long did he last?
ROSS: About two and a half minutes, according to our CIA sources.
On the harshness of waterboarding:
O’REILLY: OK. So he gave it up. And most of them gave it up within seconds of being waterboarded, correct?
ROSS: 20, 30 seconds is the most people can take of this technique. It’s that harsh.
O’REILLY: Can this hurt you if they continue to do it? Can it kill you, water boarding?
ROSS: If they continued, it could. But essentially, it creates a gag reflex, where you think you are about to die, you think you’re drowning. You’re not.
O’REILLY: OK. So nobody got permanently injured during this that you know of?
ROSS: Permanently physically injured. Some would argue there’s a mentally damage.
On whether coercive interrogations produce useful information:
O’REILLY: So in all 14 cases, coerced interrogation methods, being debated in the Senate right now, were used. And in all 14 cases, according to your report, they gave it up.
Now the opposition, you just heard it. Human Rights Watch, ACLU, they say it’s garbage. They told them what they want to hear. It wasn’t truthful. Is that true?
ROSS: That has happened in some cases where the material that’s been given has not been accurate, has been essentially to stop the torture.
In the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the information was very valuable, particularly names and addresses of people who were involved with al Qaeda in this country and in Europe.
And in one particular plot, which would involve an airline attack on the tallest building in Los Angeles, known as the Library Tower.
O’REILLY: Well, in fact, you say in your report that more than a dozen plots, a dozen al Qaeda plots to kill people were stopped because of the information they got from coerced interrogation?
ROSS: That’s what we were told by sources.
O’REILLY: Do you believe that?
ROSS: I do believe that.
And again on the information that’s produced:
O’REILLY: All right, but you’re up there. When you hear human rights people come on this program and say it doesn’t work, it never works, this is — what do you say?
ROSS: I think it’s open debate, because sometimes there is information that doesn’t hold up. But it’s clear in several cases, with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, with people that absolutely beyond a doubt are terrorists, terrorist masterminds, it does seem to have an effect. And that’s just the bottom line.
O’REILLY: Has it saved American lives?
ROSS: That’s what the administration would say. Certainly if you interrupted a tower – a plot to bomb a tower in Los Angeles, you’ve saved lives.