Thursday, September 20, 2007

CIA Ceases the Use of Water-Boarding

ABC News reported last week that the CIA will no longer use the controversial interrogation technique called water-boarding. Most religious groups have statements against torture. For example, see the relevant portion of my own denomination's statement of Basic Freedoms and Human Rights in its Social Principles section of The United Methodist Book of Discipline: "

Furthermore, the mistreatment or torture of persons by governments for any purpose violates Christian teaching and must be condemned and/or opposed by Christians and churches wherever and whenever it occurs.

The Bush administration has held that the United States does not torture but instead utilizes aggressive interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects for the purpose of securing the safety of American citizens. Others say water-boarding is an act of torture.

No United States legislation specifically mentions water-boarding, but federal law (18 U.S.C. § 2340) defines torture as

an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control. . . .

This law further defines "severe mental pain or suffering" to include "the threat of imminent death." Such a threat is at the heart of water-boarding, as interrogators stuff a cloth in the mouth of the person being interrogated and pour water into the cloth. When the person being interrogated breathes, the sensation of drowning is simulated. In fact, drowning can occur if the technique is not stopped. It is precisely the fear of death that causes people to "confess."

The following video, from Crooks and Liars, shows a controlled water-boarding incident. Judge for yourself whether this is torture.

The CIA claims to have banned this practice, but with such little oversight in this administration, who knows what is really taking place and where it is happening?

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