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Issue Pulse: Waterboarding Is Torture

The White House said yesterday that waterboarding is legal, but the expert consensus indicates otherwise.

Torture is illegal, under both U.S. law and international law. Yet the form of torture known as waterboarding is now legal, according to the Bush administration. White House spokesman Tony Fratto confirmed yesterday that the simulated-drowning technique is now legal and that Bush could authorize the CIA to continue using it in certain circumstances.

The only problem is that the White House has it wrong. Countless experts agree: Waterboarding is torture.

If I had water draining into my nose, oh God, I just can’t imagine how painful! Whether it’s torture by anybody else’s definition, for me it would be torture.”
Dir. of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, speaking to the New Yorker, Jan. 21, 2008

"There’s just no doubt in my mind—under any set of rules—waterboarding is torture."
Tom Ridge, former Sec. of Homeland Security, Jan. 18, 2008

The Field Manual explicitly prohibits torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment. To make this more imaginable and understandable to our soldiers…we have included in the Field Manual specific prohibitions. There’s eight of them: interrogators may not force a detainee to be naked, perform sexual acts or pose in a sexual manner; they cannot use hoods or place sacks over a detainees head or use duct tape over his eyes; they cannot beat or electrically shock or burn them or inflict other forms of physical pain — any form of physical pain; they may not use water boarding, they may not use hypothermia or treatment which will lead to heat injury; they will not perform mock executions; they may not deprive detainees of the necessary food, water and medical care; and they may not use dogs in any aspect of interrogations.”
Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for Intelligence, Sept. 6, 2006

“They should know what it is. It is not a complicated procedure. It is torture.”
– Sen. John McCain, Oct. 26, 2007

“We need to send a clear message that torture, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees, is unacceptable and is not permitted by U.S. law. Period.
-Sen. Joe Biden, Nov. 8, 2007

“Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period.”
Malcolm Nance, counter-terrorism and terrorism intelligence consultant to U.S. Special Operations, Homeland Security, and Intelligence Agencies, Small Wars Journal, Oct. 31, 2007

"This is absolutely unacceptable under international human rights law. Time has come that the government will actually acknowledge that they did something wrong and not continue trying to justify what is unjustifiable."
Manfred Nowak, UN special rapporteur on torture, Feb. 6, 2008

"In the meantime, we’ve had five years to develop new sources of information, to improve relations with other countries who could provide us additional information. And I’ve come to the belief that not only is it unnecessary, but that as Americans, we’re better than that and we shouldn’t be engaging in a practice like waterboarding."
– Former CIA Agent John Kiriakou, Dec. 12, 2007

“We write because this issue above all demands clarity: Waterboarding is inhumane, it is torture, and it is illegal.”
Ret. Judge Advocate Generals, in a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, Nov. 2, 2007

A majority of Americans—69 percent—agree with these experts and consider waterboarding a form of torture. The United States cannot continue to sanction this illegal technique that is ineffective in eliciting reliable intelligence. It is inconsistent with our core values and undermines America’s moral authority, diplomatic efforts, and the norms of civilized conduct that protect U.S. service members who are captured in the field.

Everyone else agrees that it’s time to restore our moral authority and end the practice. It’s time for the Bush administration to lift its head out of the sand and see how out of line they actually are.

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