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The Secret Prisons and Tortures Revealed.
History of an Interrogation Technique: Water Boarding
Nov. 29, 2005 — CIA Director Porter Goss maintained this week that the CIA does not employ methods of torture. In doing so, he opened a new debate over exactly what constitutes torture — especially when it comes to the harshest of the CIA's six secret interrogation techniques, known as "water boarding."
The water board technique dates back to the 1500s during the Italian Inquisition. A prisoner, who is bound and gagged, has water poured over him to make him think he is about to drown.
Current and former CIA officers tell ABC News that they were trained to handcuff the prisoner and cover his face with cellophane to enhance the distress. According to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., himself a torture victim during the Vietnam War, the water board technique is a "very exquisite torture" that should be outlawed.
"Torture is defined under the federal criminal code as the intentional infliction of severe mental pain or suffering," said John Sifton, an attorney and researcher with the organization Human Rights Watch. "That would include water boarding."
On "Good Morning America" today, Goss told ABC News' Charles Gibson that the CIA does not inflict pain on prisoners.
Yet, in response to Gibson's inquiry if water boarding would come under the heading of torture, Goss simply replied, "I don't know."
Water boarding was designated as illegal by U.S. generals in Vietnam 40 years ago. A photograph that appeared in The Washington Post of a U.S. soldier involved in water boarding a North Vietnamese prisoner in 1968 led to that soldier's severe punishment.
"The soldier who participated in water torture in January 1968 was court-martialed within one month after the photos appeared in The Washington Post, and he was drummed out of the Army," recounted Darius Rejali, a political science professor at Reed College.
Earlier in 1901, the United States had taken a similar stand against water boarding during the Spanish-American War when an Army major was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for water boarding an insurgent in the Philippines.
"Even when you're fighting against belligerents who don't respect the laws of war, we are obliged to hold the laws of war," said Rejali. "And water torture is torture."
This morning, Goss insisted that the CIA and its officers are not breaking U.S. law.
"We do debriefings because debriefings are the nature of our business — to get information, and we do all that, and we do it in a way that does not involve torture because torture is counterproductive," Goss said.
The CIA maintains its interrogation techniques are in legal guidance with the Justice Department. And current and former CIA officers tell ABC News there is a presidential finding, signed in 2002, by President Bush, Condoleezza Rice and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft approving the techniques, including water boarding.
President Bush has transferred 14 key terrorist leaders from secret CIA custody to the U.S. military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be prepared for eventual trials, a senior administration official said Wednesday.
The high-value suspected terrorists include Khalid Sheik Mohammed, believed to be the No. 3 al-Qaida leader before he was captured in Pakistan in 2003; Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged would-be Sept. 11, hijacker; and Abu Zubaydah, who was believed to be a link between Osama bin Laden and many al-Qaida cells before he was also captured in Pakistan, in March 2002.
Bush revealed the move in a speech from the White House, with families of those killed in the 2001 attacks making up part of the audience. The announcement, which the White House touted beforehand, comes as Bush has sought with a series of speeches to sharpen the focus on national security two months before high-stakes congressional elections.
Speaking at the White House, the president said that the country was still under threat from terrorists.
"They're still trying to strike America and still trying to kill our people," Bush said. The U.S. must be able to "detain, question and, when appropriate, prosecute terrorists captured here in America and on the battlefields around the world."
Bush said such detainees provide essential intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks and to stop key terror suspects from again taking up arms against the United States. "We have a right under laws of war and an obligation to the American people to detain these people and prevent them from returning to battle," Bush said.
"They are in our custody so that they can't kill our people."
The president successfully emphasized the war on terror in his re- election campaign in 2004 and is trying to make it a winning issue again for Republicans this year.
The announcement from Bush is the first time the administration has acknowledged the existence of CIA prisons, which have been a source of friction between Washington and some allies in Europe. The administration has come under criticism for its treatment of terrorism detainees. European Union lawmakers said the CIA was conducting clandestine flights in Europe to take terror suspects to countries where they could face torture.
Bush also will unveil his proposal for how trials of such key suspected terrorists _ those transferred to Guantanamo and already there _ should be conducted, which must be approved by Congress. Bush's original plan for the type of military trials used in the aftermath of World War II was struck down in June by the Supreme Court, which said the tribunals would violate U.S. and international law.
Pushing a hard line with legislation he promoting for Capitol Hill consideration later Wednesday, Bush was insisting on military tribunals in which evidence would be withheld from a defendant if necessary to protect classified information.
The official, who had spoken only on grounds of anonymity because the president's announcement was still pending, said the suspects transferred to Guantanamo would be afforded some legal protections consistent with the Geneva conventions.
Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have drafted a rival proposal. It would guarantee certain legal rights to defendants, including access to all evidence used against them.
"I think it's important that we stand by 200 years of legal precedents concerning classified information because the defendant should have a right to know what evidence is being used," said McCain, R-Ariz., who was among the Senate leaders briefed ahead of time on Bush's plan.
Administration officials also have said that allowing coerced testimony in some cases may be necessary, while McCain said the committee bill would ban it entirely.
"We have some differences that we are in discussion about," said McCain, who had not seen the White House bill in writing. "I believe we can work this out."
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is expected to side with the administration. He planned to introduce Wednesday the White House legislative proposal on the floor and refer it to the Armed Services Committee for review.
Frist "believes it is a dangerous idea that terrorists and those around them automatically receive classified information about the means and methods used in the war on terror," said a senior Frist aide.
Senate Democrats so far are in agreement with Warner and McCain, setting up a potential showdown on the floor this month just before members leave for midterm elections.
"It's going to get worked out," White House press secretary Tony Snow declared. Asked if the White House will negotiate with the lawmakers, he replied, "It may be that the Hill is willing to negotiate."
Also on Wednesday, the Pentagon was releasing a new Army manual that spells out appropriate conduct on issues including prisoner interrogation. The manual applies to all the armed services, but not the CIA.
The United States began using the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in eastern Cuba in January 2002 to hold people suspected of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban. About 445 detainees remain there, including 115 considered eligible for transfer or release.
The president has said he eventually wants to close Guantanamo as critics and allies around the world have urged. But Snow said Bush wasn't announcing any such plan now.
Guantanamo has been a flashpoint for both U.S. and international debate over the treatment of detainees without trial and the source of allegations of torture, denied by U.S. officials. Even U.S. allies have criticized the facility and process.
The camp came under worldwide condemnation after it opened more than four years ago, when pictures showed prisoners kneeling, shackled and being herded into wire cages. It intensified with reports of heavy- handed interrogations, hunger strikes and suicides.
High-Value Detainees Will Be Given Prisoner-of-War Status
ABC News has learned that President Bush will announce that high-value detainees now being held at secret CIA prisons will be transferred to the Department of Defense and granted protections under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. It will be the first time the Administration publicly acknowledges the existence of the prisons.
A source familiar with the president's announcement says it will apply to all prisoners now being held by the CIA, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept.11 attacks, and senior al Qaeda leader Ramzi Binalshibh.
The source says there are "about a dozen" prisoners now being held by the CIA.
Until now, the U.S. government has not officially acknowledged the existence of CIA prisons.
The Bush administration has come under harsh criticism for its handling of detainees captured in the U.S.-led military campaign to root out al Qaeda terror cells abroad.
Many detainees have been given the legal status of "enemy combatant," which includes both lawful enemy combatants and unlawful enemy combatants.
In an afternoon address, President Bush defended the aim of the secret program without specifically addressing controversial interrogation techniques first reported in November 2005 by ABC News' chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross. The administration has c come under criticism not only for the secret detentions, but for the alleged psychological and physical stresses used on prisoners during interrogations.
While the prisoners were detained they were exposed to "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 . The techniques were used on 14 top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques, which include slapping and scare tactics.
One of the techniques, "water-boarding," involved pouring water over the victim to make them feel as if they were drowning, a maneuver that often resulted in a confession within a few seconds. "The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.
In Dec. 2005, CIA closed prisons in Poland and Romania had been closed due to Human Rights Watch reports. Since then, the locations of the prisons have been secret and the government has all but denied their existence.
The prisoners will be transferred to Guantanamo Bay Base, where they will receive the rights guaranteed them under international law through the Geneva Conventions. In late June, the Supreme Court issued a decision blocking military tribunals for detainees. A major rebuke to the Bush administration, the justices ruled that the president first needed the approval of Congress before ordering prisoners to be tried for war crimes.
The decision forced the administration to reconsider the legal battle against the prisoners, and made their future uncertain. The recently acknowledged al Qaeda prisoners recently transferred and held in the custody of the Department of Defense will be covered by this ruling as well.
As soon as Congress approves his request, the men suspected of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Towers in 2001 will be prosecuted.