CIA Waterboarded al-Qaida Suspects 266 Times

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by
The Guardian/UK

CIA Waterboarded al-Qaida Suspects 266 Times

Torture technique outlawed by Obama was used extensively on 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and alleged terror commander Abu Zubaydah

by
Matthew Weaver and agencies

Demonstrator Maboud Ebrahimzadeh is held down during a simulation of waterboarding outside the Justice Departement in Washington in this November 5, 2007 file photo. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Files)

The CIA waterboarded two al-Qaida terror suspects a total of 266 times, according to a report that suggests the use of the torture technique was much more extensive than previously thought.

The documents showed waterboarding was used 183 times on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who admitted planning the 9/11 attacks, the New York Times reported today.

The
US Justice Department memos released last Thursday showed that
waterboarding, which the US now admits is torture, was used 83 times on
the alleged al-Qaida senior commander Abu Zubaydah, the paper said. A
former CIA officer claimed in 2007 that Zubaydah was subjected to the
simulated drowning technique for only 35 seconds.

The numbers were removed from most of the memos over the weekend. But bloggers, including Marcy Wheeler from empytwheel, discovered that the figure had not been blanked out from one of the memos.

Barack Obama has banned waterboarding and overturned a Bush administration policy that it did not amount to torture.

The
president did not intend to prosecute Bush administration officials who
devised the policies that led to such interrogations, his chief of
staff, Rahm Emanuel, said yesterday.

Asked on Sunday about the
fate of those officials, Emanuel told ABC's This Week programme that
Obama believed they "should not be prosecuted either and that's not the
place that we go".

Michael Hayden, who led the CIA under Bush,
said the public release of the memos would make it harder to get useful
information from suspected terrorists being detained by the US.

"I
think that teaching our enemies our outer limits, by taking techniques
off the table, we have made it more difficult in a whole host of
circumstances I can imagine, more difficult for CIA officers to defend
the nation," Hayden said on Fox News Sunday.

He disputed
an article in the New York Times on Saturday that said Zubaydah had
revealed nothing new after being waterboarded, saying that he believed
that after unspecified "techniques" were used Zubaydah revealed
information that led to the capture of another terrorist suspect, Ramzi
Binalshibh.

One of the released memos was a 2002 justice
department briefing memo written by assistant attorney general Jay
Bybee and sent to John Rizzo, the acting general counsel for the CIA,
spelling out in detail how waterboarding should be practised. It
specifically refers to the interrogation of Zubaydah using the water
technique.

"In this procedure," Bybee said, "the individual is
bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet
by seven feet. The individual's feet are generally elevated. A cloth is
placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth
in a controlled manner. As this is done the cloth is lowered until it
covers both the nose and the mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and
completely covers the mouth and nose, air flow is slightly restricted
for 20 to 40 seconds ... this causes an increase in carbon dioxide
level in the individual's blood.

"This increase in the carbon
dioxide level stimulates increased efforts to breath. This effect plus
the cloth produces the perception of 'suffocation and incipient panic',
ie the perception of drowning. The individual does not breathe any
water into his lungs."

After the 20 to 40 seconds, the cloth is
lifted and the individual is allowed three or four full breaths before
the procedure is repeated.

The memo went on to say that "we also
understand that a medical expert will be present throughout this phase
and the procedure will be stopped if deemed medically necessary to
prevent severe mental or physical harm to Zubaydah".

A footnote
to another 2005 justice department memo released last week said
waterboarding was used both more frequently and with a greater volume
of water than the CIA rules permitted.

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