SERE Instructor: Waterboarding Is Torture

With the subject of torture at the forefront of the confirmation hearings for Michael Mukasey, whether waterboarding qualifies has become the stumbling point. Senator John McCain has insisted that it does constitute torture and therefore should explicitly be illegal, while others argue that it should be kept as a non-lethal and safe form of interrogation for terrorists, especially in so-called ticking bomb scenarios. Proponents often argue — as I have in the past — that the commando forces of our military waterboard volunteers for their units as part of their training at Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE).
Today, however, one of the instructors who deliver that training speaks out in the New York Daily News to affirm McCain’s interpretation — and to denounce its use as an interrogation technique. Malcolm Nance of the blog Small Wars Journal insists that the technique is lethal in all but the most controlled circumstances:

Having been subjected to this technique, I can say: It is risky but not entirely dangerous when applied in training for a very short period. However, when performed on an unsuspecting prisoner, waterboarding is a torture technique – without a doubt. There is no way to sugarcoat it.
In the media, waterboarding is called “simulated drowning,” but that’s a misnomer. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning.
Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.
How much of this the victim is to endure depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs that show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.
Waterboarding is slow-motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of blackout and expiration. Usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch. If it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia – meaning, the loss of all oxygen to the cells.

I’m inclined to agree with Nance, especially given his clear expertise on the matter. He argues that the technique should continue to form part of SERE training, but in its present form, which is different and milder than that which detainees experience. It gives volunteers a clear indication of the potential psychological issues they face with torture if captured, but without putting them at unnecessary physical risk.
Given that, however, Congress should quit debating whether current law covers waterboarding and clear the issue up once and for all. As Nance says, detainees already released have spoken publicly about interrogation techniques, so publicly taking waterboarding off the list of options doesn’t really impact interrogations. As I wrote a few days ago, forcing an Attorney General to declare it illegal as the price of confirmation functionally does the same thing as an explicit law outlawing waterboarding — only it shifts responsibility for legislation from Congress to the AG and basically forces him to make up laws as he goes along.
That’s a strange strategy for Congress to pursue, especially since they regularly pronounce themselves aghast at Bush’s ideas of executive power.
Clearly this is a matter which Congress needs to resolve. Ambiguity serves no real purpose now. Instead of shifting responsibility to the Department of Justice to interpret poorly-written laws, the same leadership in the Senate and House demanding an end to waterboarding need to take the actions necessary to ensure its cessation. (via Memeorandum)
UPDATE: Andy McCarthy is on the same wavelength — and notes that Congress declined to specify waterboarding as torture in 2006. If they want to make it explicitly illegal — and they should, from what Nance writes — Congress has the power to do so.
UPDATE II: Two questions have arisen in the comments. First, there is a question whether Nance has accurately described the waterboarding performed by interrogators, as some believe that version also keeps water out of the lungs. Second is a question regarding the veracity of Nance and his resume. I’m not in a position to verify either, although if anyone has more than conjecture and collegial sniping, I’d be glad to see it.
I’d also point out that the first set of questions could have been answered by Congress, had they had the courage of their rhetoric last year and now.

101 thoughts on “SERE Instructor: Waterboarding Is Torture”

  1. From outside the beltway blog about Malcolm Nance
    In case anyone is still reading the comments, here are a few points regarding Malcolm:
    * He was a Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) in the Navy. We operated radios, mostly on ships, submarines and airplanes. Our job was mostly tedium, so some of us like to turn it into an adrenaline-pumping action adventure in our sea stories.
    * None my friends and colleagues who were in Beirut on October 23, 1983, can remember Malcolm’s presence in the aftermath of the Marine barracks attack. If he was there, he maintained what was a startlingly low profile for Malcolm.
    * Malcolm was an instructor at the Navy Technical Training Center Detachment at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, TX, which is where he earned his Master Training Specialist designation. It had nothing to do with his assignment at SERE School.
    * Malcolm was assigned to SERE School as an instructor to get him out of the way of the mainstream of the Navy’s Cryptologic community, due to some run-ins he’d had with influential people. CTs only get assigned duties outside of the community when they’ve lost their clearance or really pissed someone off. CTs have Top Secret SCI clearances; they don’t get sent to mainstream Navy schools as instructors (thereby wasting their clearances) unless there’s a problem somewhere. It certainly wasn’t because Malcolm was some whiz-bang SEAL counter-terrorism expert.
    * I went through SERE school at least a decade before Malcolm was a SERE instructor, but during my class, there wasn’t anything approaching the severity of his description of waterboarding. Yes, there were many very unpleasant experiences there, but nothing that came anywhere close to being properly called “torture.”
    * Malcolm bases some of his claims on “classified” information. The last time I checked, revealing classified information is against the law (unless you’re a politician, of course). Regardless of the legalities, I have a hard time understanding how a person of honor and integrity can reveal information that he has sworn to keep secret.
    Malcolm has always been a superior writer. Likewise, he’s had an uncanny ability to step into the proverbial pile of shit and come out smelling like a rose. Those of us who know him best don’t trust anything he says or writes. Take his books and articles with a pillar of salt.
    Posted by Boyd | October 30, 2007 | 08:51 am | Permalink

  2. Isn’t the distinction between whether the act is illegal under existing law or whether new legislation is needed to for it to become illegal an important one for those who have actually been engaging in it?

  3. Ed, you bring up a lot of interesting points. I can’t understand one thing. Does this mean that in 200 plus years no one has ever defined what torture is?

  4. There must be more than one method. In the waterboarding technique that I read about somewhere, the water runs onto a covering over the face, and that provokes a drowning reflex, provokes panic, but some minimum amount of air is available and no water actually enters the lungs. Why have them pass out? If the subject passes out from lack of air, they stop being frightened, and they’re not very talkative after they pass out…or die.

  5. HIs comments about water entering the lungs during waterboarding — is that accurate? I thought that water was specifically prevented from entering the lungs.

  6. I’m afraid I have reached the point in life where any time I see some “whistleblower” publish his anguishing story in the mainstream press I take it with several large bags of salt.
    In this day and age when someone has “finally decided that his conscience can no longer remain silent” and takes to the news media to ausuage his conscience my immediate reaction is a) what he/she is doing has some self-serving motive; and b) what he’s complaining about is no where near as bad as he/she claims. I’m hard pressed to recall a case where one or both of these did not turn out to be true.
    I suspect we have a new crop of Beauchamp blossoming.
    Frankly a great many American soldiers have been through waterboarding, and worse, as part of their training and they are still around and functioning normally. And even if it is as bad as he claims how would you tell the survivors and families of some attack that we could have used waterboarding and maybe found out where the bomb was but we thought it was too harsh. Sorry Captain, I know it marks me a a cruel b*astard, if waterboarding, or even pulling some SOB’s fingernails out, will get him to tell us where the nuke is, pass the towel or the pliers.

  7. I have a strong feeling that Malcolm Nance is full of bovine excrement. Soon we’ll have another tell-all article about other forms of “torture”……loud noises, sleep deprevation, exposure to low temperature, etc. Having worked MI years ago, I doubt things have changed that much. You don’t lean on someone to see IF they have information. You lean on those whom you know HAVE information…and you already have some of it in order to cross-check what they give you. Seems odd we can “waterboard” our own, but not some terrorist thug. That’s bull shit!!!!!!!!

  8. To second Al in St. Lou, good post, by the way.
    If Malcolm Nance served as an instructor at Goodfellow, then he was far removed from the interrogation program, other than going through SERE training as most of us who went through Goodfellow were subject to. If he was removed from the crypto community and assigned to SERE training then it was for cause. Getting out of the crypto field is not easy to do unless one shows impropriety, lack of discipline, inability to refrain from talking about classified information, insubordination, and similar reasons, not to mention mental instability, a common ruse used to get away from the ear phones and sitting “pos” for endless hours at a time…real torture, ask anyone who has done tricks on live missions.
    For those of us who were in the crypto field, the reason we were singled out for SERE training was that we held in our sharp minds a lot of stuff the bad guys all across the world would love to know. Cryptology is a pretty unique profession, and a vital one. But, jumping from being a career cryptologist to somehow becoming a leading expert in interrogation techniques is quite a leap. And the MSM has jumped on him in a manner similar to Beauchamp…he is the new and latest hero in the war on Bush. But enough on Malcolm. Just trying to vet a source, something the MSM and most of Congress rarely if ever do.
    Waterboarding, if conducted properly, has the head and face lower than the chest, in a Trendelenburg position, normally a steep one, thus the probability of the lungs filling with water isn’t going to happen. The gag reflex is indeed engaged, to repel water in the mouth and nose and just past the epiglottis. The same effect as having a large wet hand held over one’s mouth and nose. If one panics, then one passes out rather soon. If one does not panic, and slows the body functions, it is similar to breathing through a wet rag while fighting a house or forest fire. But drown? Not a chance.
    There has been so much absolute bull inserted into the argument over torture and allegations of torture, and a lot of members of Congress who haven’t the slightest clue, that the entire issue as so many in recent years has been effectively masked by untruths, half-truths and out right lies. And this is the basis on which we establish policy in this country?
    Torture, real torture, has limited effect and seldom if ever provides the response desired. Real torture leaves real scars. Real torture is not used by the U.S. government, and those who do use such are charged, tried and almost always found guilty and approrpriately sentenced.
    But, are we now entering that touchy-feel-good phase of our demise when “discomfort” is now considered torture? Sleepless nights, cold ambient tremperature, lack of access to clean freshly washed clothing, restriction on television viewing, being forced to listen to rock music, not being given lavish meals while in captivity…these are all things that have come up in the Congressional hearings on “torture” among other discomforts.
    As for Malcolm, the new hero, I have to take almost all he has said with a rather large dose of salt…I only wish more would do likewise.

  9. Torture is defined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which was passed by the UN General Assembly, and which, according to this wikipedia article, the United States acceeds with minor reservations. The US is a member of the “CAT Committee” which oversees implementation of the convention.
    I note that, under Article 1, mental suffering inflicted under interrogation is illegal. Under the “minor reservations” the US states, the US states that torture is also prohibited under the Constitution, and that restrictions placed on torture by Article VI of the Constitution supercede those of the Convention.
    In essence, I’m not sure whether the US is stating that the Constitution is more or less restrictive than the Convention, but certainly is saying that we’ve got the situation covered already in our Constitution, and the remedies are dictated by that same Constitution.
    Whether it’s the President, the Court, or the Congress which takes action, it doesn’t matter to me — each has its obligations to uphold the Constitution.

  10. I thought the comments at the Belmont Club were interesting since many took Nance’s side. I also thought he made some good points, but in the end I got the feeling he was interviewing for a position in a Democrat Presidential cabinet — too obvious in his attack on Bush. The main fallacy I saw was the idea that now, because of Bush, everyone will be using waterboarding. Well, since we’re probably only talking about jihadists anyway, it’s not like they’ve had the kid gloves on while they were hacking off heads with dull, rusty knives.
    It seemed like a forced argument to me — that and this idea that we’ve lost our moral high ground with the world. Please!!!
    The biggest problem we have with the jihadis is they don’t think we have the will to win over the long haul. This kind of public debate only reinforces the weak horse image. If we defeat them, our stature worldwide will be just fine.

  11. As for the United Nation’s High Commission on Human Rights 1984 “Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, entered into force in 1987, such does not eliminate the strictures of the Geneva and Hague Conventions.
    It was also written for a totally different time and place. Thus far it does not superceded U.S. Law and the Constitution. It is a UNited nations commission document, from two decades ago.
    Under Geneva and Hague, those who are allegedly subject to waterboarding, the point of Congress’s current hearings, Malcolm Nance’s commentary, and the Mukasey hearings as well, these same subjects, enemy combatants, are not granted the same privileges as members of an organized foreign army operating under the Rules of Land Warfare, and Geneva and Hague. They are, rather, fortunate to be kept alive. Under Geneva and Hague these persons are considered bandits and terrorists and saboteurs, and can, under Geneva and Hague, be summarily executed in the field…all perfectly legal…but something the United States has refrained from doing for over a century.
    So, what is our choice? Afford them POW status, which contravenes Geneva and Hague? Afford them representation in U.S. Courts, which also contravenes Geneva and hague? Give precedence to the United Nations, and relinquish our Rights under our Constitution? Toss out Geneva and Hague? Not a whole lot of wiggle room.
    Yes, we need a statement of federal law to cover those who are charged with the care, treatment and exploitation of enemy combatants, terrorists and saboteurs, and bandits in a combat zone, not to afford more rights to these combatants, terrorists saboteurs and bandits, but to prevent the wholesale lynch mob evisceration of those who are charged with our national security in a time of war.

  12. Old news …
    3 detainees have been waterboarded, the last one almost 4 years ago …
    Oh, and it worked … So all the “experts” that claim torture doesn’t work. … Well then maybe waterboarding the way we did it is not torture …

  13. For those that would torture and murder members of our Armed Forces, I feel that our supposed ‘loss of the moral high ground’ doesn’t mean much. Nor does it mean much to others who would contemplate violent action against the USA. I don’t advocate sinking to the terrorists’ level; I do advocate that which is necessary to protect American lives.
    Why should anyone take Mr. Nance’s word over the word of Al in St. Lou or coldwarrior415?
    I tend to believe that waterboarding is not equateable to the torture our enemy already inflicts (and all US enemies since WWII have inflicted) on US Service Members. If it works, and it looks like it has and does, please continue to use it.
    I won’t be losing sleep over how our enemies view us.
    I would prefer that they lose the ability to breathe permanently, let alone think.

  14. I have no special insight on SERE or Malcom Nance, but I for one completely agree with John Steele above.
    I have not read anywhere about waterboarding ‘filling the lungs’ of anyone. Not that its impossible, I suppose, but I watched one of the FoxNews guys undergo waterboarding for some special report and if that represents what everyone is talking about, this whole discussion is a waste of time. It is not torture. Show me pliers yanking out fingernails or blowtorches on underarms. That’s ‘torture’. And frankly in the event of the ‘ticking nuke’ scenario, I couldn’t care less what method is used to save a city.

  15. This fixation on waterboarding by the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats (and a few Republicans) has nothing to do with the merits or hazards of the technique, nor with ‘torture’, and everything to do with the continual attack on George W. Bush and his administration.
    The idea is to hamstring the President and to render him ineffectual in the final year of his tenure, and to build the case for a Democrat election victory in 2008. That was the reason for the Gonzales hearings, and that is why they’re going after Judge Mukasey now.
    The drive-by media are just the same. They’ve been relentlessly attacking President Bush for all of his time in office, and they’re not going to let up now.
    By letting them have issue after issue, head after head, we let them run away with the battle. Conservatives and Republicans need to stand up to the Leaheys and Schumers of the Congress and say, “We know we’re right; we know you’re wrong; and we’re going to continue our policies and support our people.”
    In this case, the Administration and Judge Mukasey should say, “We follow the law, and we’re not going to discuss interrogation techniques nor any other intelligence matters in public, and we will prosecute anyone who leaks a drop of classified information to anyone.”
    /Mr Lynn
    PS There was a PowerLine thread recently where a number of SEAL guys described their experiences with waterboarding, and gave the lie to this guy Nance. Captain, isn’t the experience of Coldwarrior and others in this thread enough to convince you that Nance is another Joe Wilson?

  16. “Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.
    How much of this the victim is to endure…… ”
    It’s not possible to endure pint after pint of water filling your lungs. Between a vomit reflex and dramatic blood chemical changes due to absorption of water from the lungs into the blood. It happens within minutes.
    I never had it demonstrated or discussed when I went through SERE school.
    This guy is nuts.

  17. The funny thing about Malcolm is that he was ex Crypto. Well so was I. I became a ROMAD because I wanted a little more purpose to all the pretty uniforms. Later that translated into CCT (Combat Control Teams).
    I don’t know when or how Malcolm learned what he learned but it doesn’t fit my personal experience at all.

  18. They found an “expert witness,” huh?
    Well, it never ceases to amaze.
    While the big question is what’s up the sleeves of the senators? You know, they never play with a fair deck, don’t cha?
    Either Mukasey “shoes in” … or he’s “shoes off.”
    He either has the votes. Or he doesn’t.
    It’s not as if he’s also gonna be sent up to the Supremes, if Bush gets another bench warmer who falls off. And, he’s the “picker” of the replacement.
    I think right now the senators are just running a test.
    Mukasey “should” make it. I mean, you think McCain has coat tails among the prima donnas?
    Me? I don’t.
    But Bush is easily spooked.
    It seems he has no way at all to defend himself. Or his “picks.” Reminds me of Bandar. When things went very wrong with the “advice” the Saud’s gave Reagan; and we blew up innocent people in Beirut … Bandar “gave up the name of his chauffeur.” He said, “that was the least he oould do.”
    Bush is now holding the bag, with a worse price-tag. And, the Saud’s? They’ll act innocent enough. They’ll make believe they didn’t have their eyes on the borders of syria; with a terrorist state flopped by the side of Israel.
    I gues they bet the wrong horse?
    But that horse is still out there.
    From waterboarding to impeachment? You see these cards?
    You think people care?
    I think Bush is an albatross.
    I can’t wait for him to leave.
    I think he’s even beating Jimmy Carter, on the clock. Where Jimmy, knowing the parade was starting, outside, for Reagan … tried to delay it … so he could “finish up.”
    “Up’s” no longer the operative word.

  19. Ummm, not for nothing but it was a Republican controlled congress in 2006 that voted down the amendment 46-53. The amendment was introduced by a Democrat, only 1 Democrat (Ben Nelson) voted against it, and 4 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for it. Two months after that vote 6 Senate seats shifted to Democrat control. So to use the excuse that “they had their chance” seems a bit thin.

  20. Beyond my previous statement, why should Congress have to declare waterboarding illegal when according to the Geneva Convention it already is?

  21. Because the Geneva Conventions say what you can/not do to soldiers. It doesn’t define torture. And terrorist aren’t soldiers according to the Geneva Convention.

  22. dwightkschrute,
    Not to nitpick, but legality being what it is, waterboarding does not appear in the current “Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War” adopted in 1949, entering into power in 1950.
    Were it actually specified in Common Article Three, then this entire debate/discussion would not exist, there being no need for such discussion.
    Common Article Three specifies who is a Prisoner of War and who is not. And that is at the root of the entire debate/discussion about waterboarding, among other things.
    Thus far, the jihadis, AQ, and other Islamists enemy combatants being held at Gitmo and other locations do not seem to fit even the most basic description of a Prisoner of War, thus, waterboarding of a non-prisoner of war, a person who is not protected under Geneva, is not subject to the strictures of Common Article Three.
    Thus the prohibition under Common Article Three of “Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture.” and “Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment,” does not apply. This was at the root of the Abu Ghraib abuses, and those involved were indicted, tried and convicted, appropriate to Geneva.
    Yes, it is nitpicky, but that’s the way law works, and Geneva has become part of United States law from the moment we signed the Convention. Were we dealing with Prisoners of War, from Iraq, for instance, Iraqi armed forces and recognized militia members who were captured by US forces while in armed struggle against an invading US force, then waterboarding would be out of the question, illegal, as it violates the spirit of Common Article Three even if not stipulated. Prisoners of War have rights. It is a matter of law. Non-prisoners of war…bandits, terrorists, sabateurs…are not subject to Geneva.
    But, we do offer and have offered these enemy combatants a large portion of rights under Geneva, to encompass Articles 12 through 16. We are under no obligation to do so as a matter of law, but as a matter of decency, we have liberally applied the specific rights under Articles 12 through 16 to those at Gitmo, even if not specified/required under Geneva.

  23. Shipmates,
    I experienced SERE school waterboarding and it wasn’t anything as described. It did, however, scare the bejeebus outta me. It took me about 30 seconds of it to realise I was willing to give up my own granma to make it stop.
    SERE school was a b!tch with bold letters and underlining, and the folks running it were, when I was there, sumbitches who we “students” were convinced would shoot us if they thought they could get away with it.
    Having said that, as a former Navy Aircrewman I have no problem with denying Geneva Convention protocols to anyone who takes up arms against the United States and is NOT part of the armed forces of a sovereign nation.
    Jihadis, AQ and otherwise, are not soldiers. They are thugs and psychopaths and deserve to be hunted down and shot like junkyard dogs. They deserve no more mercy than that which they dispense.

  24. IMHO… I think members of Congress should be waterboarded… maybe that would convince them to do something other than witch hunts. raising taxes and naming Post Offices.

  25. Perhaps this could be solved by declaring waterboarding not torture, but then deciding whether it is, in its own category, bad enough to forbid.
    Suppose you had been waterboarded, or had your kneecaps drilled. One year later, your condition is….. Which would you prefer to have in your history? Why?
    Suppose somebody develops a field-sized EEG gizmo with which, given a couple of electrodes, a completely believable sense of panic–or something else, despair, desire to cooperate–could be artificially induced. The guy then talks, guaranteed. No physical or mental residuals.
    Okay? If not, why not?

  26. I’m with Tim. Jihadis are not due Geneva Convention protections. They are MEAT. Given their status as illegal combatants, we should do whatever it takes to get whatever we need from them, as long as it results in no harm to OUR soldiers. The Islamofascists don’t obey the Geneva Convention when our soldiers are captured, so why should we? The only reason is to protect our honor. And that doesn’t mean, that we have to treat these (expletive) in a humane way.

  27. Richard Aubrey,
    Interesting, and on the most basic level this has been done, and hopefully, still being done.
    A rapid and profuse stimulation of Beta brain waves serves to incite panic and disorientation. Use of stimulants such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, amphetimines has shown this in real life situations and in the lab. No electrodes necessary, really.
    Have used the strong coffee and cigarettes thing in my past career a few times with a subject or two who was not eating regularly. Kept offering smokes and a lot of coffee, kept asking questions, talking about their past life, life both prior to and after joining their military or other career field, all sorts of things, for hours on end.
    You could see the physical changes within an hour or so, and I got a pliant customer along the way, too. Inhibitions about not talking about anything important fell by the wayside rather early on. Most told me the story of their lives in great detail, and devulged a tremendous amount of essential elements of information. Funny thing, long afterwards, they still relished a cup of coffee or two and a pack of cigarettes. They asked for it right up front when we sat down to “talk.”
    Torture? Not even close.

  28. well, if aggressive interrogation techniques are forbidden and normal interrogation techniques don’t have a decent probability of eliciting useful information from illegal combatants then the answer is pretty clear.
    don’t capture them, just kill them.
    As illegal combatants they do not deserve any protection from US law or international law. So hang them/shoot them immediately and move on.

  29. Commenters questioning Nance’s credentials are out to lunch. The people on the Small Wars Blog are ultra-top-quality, genuine experts. The anonymous used car salesmen here questioning Nance’s credentials would be funny if it wasn’t outrageous and divorced from reality.
    The Fox News video is a fluff job. Makes it look relatively harmless. This video here, from what I’ve heard, is more like the real thing – and the people doing it are SERE instructors.
    When you repeatedly trigger the autonomic nervous system over a long period of time – as is done in waterboarding, with the asphyxiation stimulus, you break people mentally. Not everyone, but many of them. A lot of people aren’t quite psychologically the same afterwards.

  30. They are terrorists and/or illegal combatants. They are not now and never have been entitled to any protections under Geneva. One of the reasons for things like Geneva is to induce nation-states to conduct warfare in an open, controlled, identifiable manner. If they do their soldiers will be treated properly. if they don’t then the people the send out to fight are not soldiers and are not entitled to any kind of protections.
    And it is utter sophistry, and nonsense, to assert, as does Colin Powell and others, that we need to treat these b*astards properly so they will treat out soldiers properly. If Colin Powell really believes that then he is an even bigger fool than anyone thought.
    Frankly for one I don’t care if they are quite psychologically the same afterwards or not — if they have no useful information just shoot them and have done with it. Its far, far better treatment than they mete out to their captives — and we have more than ample evidence of that.

  31. glasnost,
    Even in benign settings, under benign interviewing/interrogation, there are long term psychological effects that stay with a wide category of interrogees merely when they realize they did not hold out, that they provided vital information to an enemy, that they betrayed their country or cause, that they failed to meet their personal expectations in dealing with an enemy, even in a benign setting. Attached to this are the psychological effects from being captured, of letting their comrades down, or no longer being in the fight, as it were, so using the idea of suffering psychological effects as a measure of interrogation serves only to confuse the issue.
    I have had to undertake suicide watch for days and weeks at a time over a benign subject who cooperated under benign conditions, was not subject to torture or enhanced interrogation, but nevertheless realized inside himself that he had actually fully cooperated with an enemy facing him across a desk. From some of the comments during any number of hearings and televised discussions on torture, that psychological effects measuring stick comes back again and again.
    A captee can contemplate suicide, and work to execute such, merely by realizing that the information he provided under benign conditions will serve to defeat his country or cause or worse, lead to the battlefield deaths of his former comrades. No torutre or enhanced techiques employed at all. Totally benign, as benign as a job interview, but still the psychological feelings of depression and despair.
    As for the vivid nature of viewing a waterboarding, it is vivid, and it is disturbing, and there are a few measures that one can use to minimize the onset of panic. Unlike the breaking of bones, or cutting off of digits, or attaching of electrodes, waterboarding if done properly leaves no long term physical effects. As for the psychological effects, it does. But so does the mere fact of being captured, or surrendering or defecting.

  32. It seems to me that I hear a lot of people (left-wingers) trying to build on the point that the illegal combatants are not POWs. However, what they seem to fail to understand is that illegal combatants have fewer rights than POWs. Instead, these bozos on the left want to give them habeas corpus and access to our judicial system as if they were citizens detained on some street corner. Many of them (the left-wingers) tell me to my face that it isn’t true unless they read it in the NY Times! So, they don’t believe that the Rathergate memos were forgeries, and they still believe the “Scott Thomas” stories, and they definitely believe that waterboarding is torture. The only Republicans they claim to respect are McCain and Giuliani.

  33. Any physical damages from waterboarding? Nope! Anyone ever drown? Nope! Anyone go insane? Nope! Very scary? Yes, that is the idea! So what on earth are we talking about? The whole issue is stupid.

  34. Torture works. Anyone who says it doesn’t has never been married. For years my wife has been able to get me to give up every secret I try to keep from her with a variety of insidious techniques such as:
    Withholding sex. Diminished,inedible rations. Sleep deprivation. Forced labor. Isolation. Mental, verbal abuse. I’m pretty sure by now I have a full blown case of Münchhausen’s syndrome. Maybe Joe Biden will come to MY rescue…

  35. The other part of waterboarding is that first you soften someone up with several days of sleep deprivation, no food, hypothermia, then you hood them for a trip to the interrogation room, where someone will scream incomprehensible questions into their face then head slap them until they see stars.
    At this point, the vast majority of people will already be in hysterics. If they have a medical condition like diabetes, they may already be dead (tortured to death). But only now do you get the water boarding.
    Other governments have used water boarding, including the Japanese, Russians, and Khmer Rouge. But they weren’t doing it to get information, they did it to get people to make nonsensical propaganda statements.
    Also,remember that they did not find any real witches in Salem MA, even though they killed dozens of innocent people and ramped up torture to an assembly line operation even in a small village. Unless of course we believe that there really were witches. Then it all makes sense.

  36. John Adams hit the nail on the head! The left seems to want to deny us ANY tactic that is successful. Their criterion for “torture” appears to be that it actually works.
    God save us from the left!

  37. “that the entire issue as so many in recent years has been effectively masked by untruths, half-truths and out right lies. And this is the basis on which we establish policy in this country?”
    It appears that way to me. At least in the last thirty or forty years, anyway.
    Oh..and torture?
    Torture is what the family of a murdered family member, endures after being told that their loved one was murdered by Islamic scum, and most likely the murderers will never be caught or punished.
    That is true torture.
    Papa Ray
    West Texas

  38. Buford wrote:
    Also,remember that they did not find any real witches in Salem MA, even though they killed dozens of innocent people and ramped up torture to an assembly line operation even in a small village. Unless of course we believe that there really were witches. Then it all makes sense.
    But they did find Khallid Sheik Muhammed, and he was a real al Qaeda member. Really. Seriously. So you’re talking out of your bunghole and your comparison to the salem witch trial is retarded.

  39. I experienced waterboarding in SERE school and Nance’s description of pints of water filling the lungs immediately jumped out as bogus. I swallowed a lot of water, but inhaled none. Even a mouthful of water in the lungs is dangerous and would quickly end an interrogation session.
    I think the OHCHR definition of torture is a good one, but they threw the baby out with the bath water when they phrased it as ‘information or a confession’. I understand that it’s very easy for an interrogator to cross the line from extracting verifiable intelligence to extracting a confession, but I think we can parse out the distinction in a way that protects us from both external enemies and internal tyrants.

  40. Pints and pints of water into the lungs??
    Maybe a physician could chime in here. My understanding is that a person can drown from a couple of teaspoons of water in their lungs.
    If that’s correct, then Malcolm’s claims don’t hold a lot of water.

  41. Most of the leftists seem to have no integrity. It’s amazing to me since I grew up as a Humphrey Dem and always respected Daniel Patrick Moynihan, but they seem to believe that any means to power is justifiable.

  42. Neglecting the water boarding issue what is being asked of the new AG is wrong. It is a wrong a judicial activism from the bench. If it is not specific in the law and constitutional then a promise by this AG lasts as long as he does. That is no way to run an airline, much less a government.

    For a good read on the bigger concepts of how this all fits together I recommend reading this post. 

    The water boarding part of this is a bright shiny baubble to twist in the wind catching attention but the post I link is much more germane to the issue. 


  43. Hey daytrader, get off the sauce and learn to write English. I can’t tell which side of the issue you’re on. You’re less coherent than Carol Herman!

  44. I read that waterboarding precipitates the gag reflex. If so, that means that the contents of the stomach can go into the lungs. That can cause aspiration pneumonia. Therefore, claims that this cannot physically harm the recipient of waterboarding seem to be incorrect.
    Moreover, should we not consider the fact that we are training fellow citizens to inflict horror, pain and potential harm upon human beings? I have seen no proof that waterboarding is only used in a scenario involving gaining information of an imminent threat.
    I have to say that, to me, educating American soldiers and civil servants how to torture ( or torment and cause pain) is almost as problematic as educating medical students how to abort babies. I really don’t want our society to have to live with the products of either kind of “education.”

  45. I think torture should remain on the table (no pun intended), and those with weak stomachs should move to … France, maybe.
    We are in a war, folks. And the bad guys want to kill us. What part of that don’t some of you understand?
    The objections to torture are:
    (1) If we do it, the enemy will feel free to do it, too.
    Well here’s a bulletin: They’re way ahead of us in this area. To the best of my recollection, we haven’t beheaded anyone. (Not that I would advocate beheading.)
    (2) The “information” gained through torture is unreliable and cannot be acted upon.
    Granted, but once we have the “information,” we can explore avenues of verification. One of the questions that would be asked, I suspect, is: “Who else knows this?”
    This is war, folks. The real deal. Western civilization is up for grabs.

  46. I went through SERE training at Warner Springs, CA, and what Malcolm Nance describes is not waterboarding. What he is describing more nearly compares to what the Kempei Tai used during WWII, although he doesn’t go quite as far as those darlings did what with: “jumping on upon his abdomen, to force the water out”. See “The Knights of Bushido”, by Lord Russell of Liverpool, C.B.E, M.C., and all that other folderal, page 276. This was called the “water treatment” AND IS NOT WATERBOARDING. NANCE IS ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE “PHONEY SOLDIERS”, and an REMF! Where do these phoney baloney, plastic banana, good time rock and rollers come from anyway? Some body ask him: how many Gs in BUGGER OFF?

  47. We’re in a war of civilizations with these islamo-crazies. I say all methods should be on the table.
    Let’s fight this war TO WIN, as opposed to ‘not lose’.

  48. Poster Glasnost should simply shut up. I know Malcolm Nance personally from my time in the Marine Corps. Nance (aka Abu Buckwheat–it’s an inside joke) was a very competent crypto, but he’s no expert on waterboarding by any stretch of the imagination. Not even close. Go back and read the first comment. It is very accurate. Nance is now in the business of writing and selling books, so don’t be surprised if you encounter a bit of hyperbole in his writing. Sensationalism sells, especially when there’s a ready made audience just waiting for it because it reinforces a cherished misconception.

  49. I spent the last few hours doing a search on Malcolm Nance, and to say the least, he is fond of self-engrandisement.
    A cursory overview of several articles he has written, several speeeches he has given and a number of bios from nance and several of his sponsors, shows that he is not all he sets himself up to be.
    He describes himself as a 20-year veteran of the war on terror, a counter-terroism expert, a foireign intelligence expert, a cryptological intelligence expert, an official consultant to the Department of Homeland Security, an official advisor to the Provisional Authority in Iraq, the Director of Special Readiness Services International (SRSI) a Washington DC-based anti-terrorism/counter-terrorism consultancy supporting the intelligence community, head of SRSI’s on the ground private team in Iraq supporting special intelligence operations, fluent in Italian, Spanish, Pashto, French and Arabic, was Chief Instructor U.S. Navy SERE Training, was sent to Cambodia just prior to his being assigned as Chief of SERE Training to observe Cambodian torture chambers and prisons, and so on and so forth…
    A few observations:
    1. IF Nance is an official consultant to the U.S. Government on terrorism, I’d like to see a few bits on his hiring and on his credentials as presented to the USG prior to his being contracted.
    2. IF Nance is a 20-year veteran of the war on terror, I’d like to see his official career bio, assignments, training, and the like.
    3. IF Nance was “sent” to Cambodia just prior to his becoming CHief of SERE Training, I’d like to see who sent him, under which organizational auspices, and a few details about that “assignment.”
    4. Looking over Nance’s most recent writings, it is clear he is decidely anti-Bush.
    5. He has given several variations on the theme of waterboarding, and none of them in any way, except for having a prisoner and having water, resemble anything at all like waterboarding as practiced by SERE cadre on SERE trainees. His overall description of waterboarding can be eaasily found in “Kempei Tai” and other WWII books on Japanese treatrment of prisoners, as pointed out by Keith [above] and from simple medical appraisal, Nance’s contention that pints and pints of water being forced into the lungs are a part of waterboarding shows ignorance of waterboarding, and ignorance of medical science…seems a hyped attempt to sway an audience largely ignorant of the same.
    Still persusing the net, have several dozen pages of Nance “notes” printed and hope to go over them over the next seveal days.
    Attacking the messenger? Not at all. Vetting a source, as any professional intellgience officer would demand? Most certainly.
    Last observation. Fox News has adopted Nance as their most recent “expert” on things arcane. In the past they have had a number of “experts” presented to the public who exceeded their brief and padded their resume. Fox News is not above being had. The American people have been had a number of times.
    Nance chose to put himself out there as the Golden Child. Accepting everything he has presented without question as to its veracity and Nance’s own veracity only serves those who would like to obfuscate instead of clarify.
    I challenge all CQ readers to do likewise…vet this source, ask questions, provide details on Nance’s bio, background, training to either show him to be an honest broker or to show him to be a bit less than that.

  50. In 1947, when a Japanese officer was charged with using waterboarding on US soldiers during WWII, the US called it a war crime and sentenced him to 15 years. Luckily, the rules are different now and it is OK for us to use the same technique.

  51. coldwarrior said

    …these same subjects, enemy combatants, are not granted the same privileges as members of an organized foreign army operating under the Rules of Land Warfare, and Geneva and Hague. They are, rather, fortunate to be kept alive.

    But, given that they are kept alive, and given that the United States has stated in its reservations to the Convention that it intends to cover such individuals by an Article of our Constitution, and given further that the United States serves in a senior position on the UN committee dedicated to overseeing the convention, it seems to me that we have obligated ourselves to follow our Constitution with respect to these combatants.
    The Convention also makes no distinction as to why a person is detained — it only states that all persons are covered by the Convention.
    We can’t have it both ways. Having stated a partial reservation to the Convention, we are obligated either to follow the Convention wholly in the places where we do not have a reservation, or to use the alternate method of compliance outlined in our reservations.
    Nor can we have it a third way. This obligation exists in addition to any obligations we might have under the Geneva Convention with regard to combatants, since a combatant is a type of person.

  52. In all the definitions of a captee according to Geneva, there is no mention of terrorists, saboteurs or bandits being granted any consideration under Geneva. Captured soldiers, sailors, airmen, embassy staffs, combatants of a recognized peoples or local militia, non-combatant civilian support personnel, aid workers, medical workers, and the like are covered, and are afforded protections under Geneva.
    But not terrorists, saboteurs and bandits.
    A properly defined and detained POW can be tried by a local court while a captee if in an escape or espionage action that POW causes the death of a local national, or commits other crimes as defined by the nation holding that POW that are not consistent with the POW’s status under Geneva. But terrorists, bandits and saboteurs are not POW’s nor afforded those protections.
    The reason for Gitmo is that while a US overseas base, we have NO Status of Forces Agreement or treaty with Cuba, and Cuba does not recognize our sovereignty at Gitmo. Had we moved these detainees to US soil, within the 50 states or territories, the detainees would be granted, under federal law, status as landed immigrants, and considered under law to be “U.S. persons.”
    Gitmo is unique in its status under international law…we own it, we occupy it, yet, it is not recognized as part of Cuba nor recognized under law as an integral part of the United States. In no other place on Earth is there any such place.
    We ran into this problem years ago when we ushered Vietnamese boat people to Guam…immediately their status changed from refugees to landed immigrants. Fortunate for them. An initial legal nightmare for those conducting the operation. Once arrived in Guam, they could move about the US in any manner they chose so long as they were properly documented. Not so Gitmo.
    But, the detainees have to go somewhere. We could leave them within the nation wherein they were captured, but Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines and a few other natinos do not want them within their borders. Yet, they cannot be afforded status as landed immigrants or “U.S. persons.”
    In 1949 when the most currrent Geneva Convention was put in place, no one envisioned a situation such as we face today. Non-state actors arrayed in combat against U.S. and Allied forces overseas, with no status as citizens or representative armed forces of the nations in which they were captured.
    Yes, we have befuddled the Convention by our taking these detainees to Gitmo. We have additionally confounded the issue by allowing them limited access to our legal system, limited as it is thus far, and we have further complicated matters by our not returning these detainees to their nations of origin in consideration of their potential harsh treatment or those same countries refusing to accept them. It is a legal limbo that was not envisioned in 1949 or in the decades since.
    Why harp on Geneva? For the simple reason that whatever we do along the lines and spirit of Genva protects our own armed forces personnel over the long haul. But, at the same time, our playing nice guy in our treatment of these detainees, and heaven forbid, our allowing them access to US Courts en masse, would place in danger all of our armed forces personnel present, past and future, to the whims of other nations and their local courts for real, imagined, or alleged activities that that nation may potentially view as a “war crime.” Once that Pandora’s box is opened, it will never be shut again.
    While legal experts dicker over minor variations on a theme, and along the way chip away at Geneva, the reality of it all is that under Geneva, and the UNHCHR Declaration, these detainees still have no “status.”
    Simple solution would be to drop them in the ocean from a great height and hope for the best…but that would be anethema to even the most strident. They exist. We have them. They are being treated far far better than warranted, and far far better than the reciprocity generally required under Genva and international law. Yet, they are still terrorists, bandits and saboteurs. And, we will probably hold them until termination of hostilities however many decades that may take.

  53. coldwarrior:
    “Fox News is not above being had…I challenge all CQ readers to do likewise…”
    I vetted a Fox News analyst recently. His name is Alireza Jafarzadeh. He is a member of the MEK, a terrorist organization. I wonder if it is OK for Fox News to have terrorists on their payrole?

  54. Who Fox News chooses to appear on camera is something for their producers to judge, and for the audience to judge, as well. Any number of news organizations over the years have presented interviews and analysis from all sorts of sordid types. Your point is what?
    As for Malcom Nance, the more I search the more I come to believe that Nance has made a lucrative career for himself by establishing himself as a self-annointed expert in counter-terrorism, interrogation, military operations, and all manner of things an average news producer has neither the time nor ability nor desire to vet. Dan Rather’s staff could have done better.
    Nance has claimed, among other things, to have been involved in counter-terroism operations in the Balkans, part of the response team to the Beirut barracks and Embassy bombings, the Acyhille Lauro hijacking, the Libyan air raid, the millenium bomb plot, the attack on the USS Cole, and over one hundred suicide bombings in Iraq. Claims he has been involved in dozens of counter-terrorism operations at the behest of the US government all across the Middle east, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, among other locales. He claims to have trained US Special Operations forces inside Afghanistan, and that he spent a year and a half as a special security advisor to the Coalititon Provisional Authority in Baghdad. He claims to be the director of the International Anti-Terrorism Center in Sydney, Australia and Paris, France. He also claims he was tasked to re-write the US Navy’s SERE program in its entirety. Claims to have interviewed Colonel Nick Rowe, Deiter Dengler, John McCain, and James Stockdale, among others, regarding torture. With his bachelor degree from Excelsior University in New York [an online “college”] he is apparently trying to complete his Doctorate while at the same time being an instructor in Advanced IED and Suicide Bomber Studies at Martyr Zarqawi Hall, Iraq Campus. [Excelsior University, by the way, has entered into agreements with MacDonalds to accept “Hamburger University” credits…I’ll leave that one for you guys to judge.]
    He further claims that while head of SERE at Coronado, he developed training to simulate Al Qaeda’s organization and tactics, in 1997, long before AQ became a blip on the radar for most of the military, and long before AQ became a separate operational collection requirement within the Intelligence Community.
    Given all of this, seems that Nance is either one hell of a hero, or one hell of an accomplished snake oil salesman.
    All of the above came from bios presented as part of his speaking tours and other appearances over the past year or so, or from his own entries in book’s he has written.

  55. coldwarriori:
    “Who Fox News chooses to appear on camera is something for their producers to judge…”
    I am sure you would have the same reaction if CNN started using Hamas members as analysts.

  56. And you base that assumption on what? That I am some sort of mindless Foxie who gets talking points every morning? I hold all news organizations accountable for whatever they choose to broadcast or send out over cable. If I like the reportage, I watch. If it proves factual, so much the better. If it is proven to be false, likewise, I will make my viewing decisions. If I view an obvious shill, like a MSNBC Olberman, I refrain from viewing. By the way, I am a steady fan of both Steve Colbert and John Stewart. I also spend a lot of time watching The National from Canadian television, as well as Deutsche Welle. But, once again, you are changing the overall topic of this thread…Malcolm Nance and his assertions about waterboarding. I am merely trying to vet a source. Your purpose is what?

  57. I had the unfortunate “privilege” of working with Malcolm Nance for several years. I can only add to the comments above:
    #1 – the man is absolutely NOTORIOUS within the crypto & intel community for a complete lack of honesty about his own exploits. On numerous occasions this reached the level of senior personnel calling him out about it when he would claim involvement in some event which he was nowhere near. And yes, the statements (not comments, these are facts) about him serving as a SERE instructor are accurate – he sought this position and was allowed to go there because he had burned far too many bridges in the community and they had no use for him. Consider that Arabic linguists have always been in short demand – to allow one to serve in a non-crypto role is kind of surprising, don’t you think?
    #2 – He may very well be accurately describing HIS feelings about waterboarding, given that I’ve seen his attempts to function in small craft and swimming operations – to say he isn’t comfortable in the water is an understatement.
    #3 – While Mr. Nance was involved closely with efforts to bring cryptologic support to Naval Special Warfare forces, I am not aware of any times in which he actually deployed in an operational status with SEAL or SBU elements. There are motivated CT’s who have done so (one of whom was KIA in Iraq this year), but Malcolm Nance was not one of them.
    I am forwarding this post to friends of mine who are members of the cryptologic community, perhaps within security confines they can tell you all more.

  58. coldwarrior:
    “Your purpose is what?”
    You are vetting the hell out of a source, and I wondered if you were putting so much effort into your vetting because you don’t like what Nance says. You did a lot of searching, but I have not seen anything earthshaking in your results, but yet you still seem to think it is somehow critical. I wondered if you ever put so much effort into vetting people you agree with. As an experiment, I thought it would be interesting to mention that Fox News uses a terrorist as an analyst. I think this info surpasses what you have found out about Nance. I think if you found out that Nance was a Hamas member, you would have have a very strong reaction. But your response to finding out that Jafarzadeh is a terrorist and employed by Fox News seemed to be rather ho-hum. I think this is because you would agree with Jafarzadeh’s views, so it is therefore less of an issue. But maybe I am wrong. If you say that your reaction in finding out that Nance (who you don’t agree with) was a Hamas member would be no different than finding out that Jafarzadeh (who you do agree with) is a terrorist, then I guess there’s not much I can say. I would be skeptical, though.
    BTW, Macquarie University in Australia has a PhD program in intelligence, counter terrorism and security offered at their Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism:
    They invited Nance to be a professor there. I guess Nance was able to fool them as well as Fox News.

  59. The following book says that the Chief Consultant of Real World Rescue “must remain anonymous”:
    This anonymous Chief Consultant is Nance. This book was published in 2001. The media listed Nance as the Chief Consultant in 2000. Funny. He wasn’t trying that hard to remain anonymous. The company is now out of business.

  60. dave,
    I have made no mention of Macquarie University in Australia, but I will now, and their bio on Nance reflects his exploits, er, rather his career. They are a university. Nothing sacrosanct about that. If the University of Colorado can hire a fraud like Ward Churchill, and there being a recent firing of a professor at the local university here because of “inaccuracies” in his resume after several years on staff, using Macquarie University as a means to establish Nance’s bona fides has marginal merit.
    Thank you for that bit of info on Nance. This is what the blogosphere is about, getting down to brass tacks in a manner the major media is reluctant to try. As a viewer of Fox News more times than other televised news outlets, I am somewhat disappointed that a few hours on the net can reveal a good deal of information about a Fox News source than apparently their production staff seemed to accomplish.
    Once again, I challenge fellow bloggers here at CQ to do some simple searches and help to establish nance’s credentials. I have no personal beef against Nance, never met the man, never worked with him, but I do take issue that simply because the by-line under his face on Fox News purports that he is some sort of career counter-terrorism expert and master interrogator and the like, many many people will take this at face value, and also take his descriptinos of waterboarding or anything else he says as golden go-to-the-bank-with-it truth. Once such enters the public domain, it will be taken as truth and passed along, additionally obfuscating the overall discussion on the merits of waterborading or non-merits of such, and having an open and honest debate on the subject of torture, which I have previously described as being filled with untruths, half-truths and outright lies.
    Personally, I detect another Beauchamp.

  61. On Waterboarding and Congress’s cowardice

    Senate Democrats seem to have realized that by allowing the confirmation of the nominee for Attorney General to go through, they would take away a talking point for Democratic candidates. Where they thought him kosher during his hearings, they now thin…

  62. I really enjoyed reading comments by those who searched the internet to validate Nance’s claims… He is nothing but a self-licking ice cream cone… Among his noteworthy fibs I must include his claims to total fluency in 3-6-23 languages I never heard him speak, even when he was living in said countries, noteworthy exception, Arabic, which he truly knows… However, he also claimed to have been a first responder at the Pentagon on 9-11… I responded too, from my watch center, by saying “HOLY SHIT! We’re at war!” I know people who were actually stationed and at the Pentagon on the day of the attacks, who knew MN, and never saw him there… His penchant for self aggrandizement is legendary in our community, and is Onanistic desire for the “legend of Malcolm” has almost caused people to be phisically injured. There is little merit to anything he says, and his encyclopedic knowledge is based on believing everything he read in all the issues of Soldier of Fortune magazine he’s read over the years. Am I qualified to comment on him? You bet! I first met Mr. Nance in 1983, the bullshit light came on then, and has remained on to this day.
    Nance earned his master training specialist qualification while teaching at a language school. He finished his career at SERE, but needs to be careful about his claims. His bio carefully manipulates words to weave through a largely fictional depiction of his military career. Mr. Nance has been known to have allowed himself to be identified as a Naval Officer, something he never was, having served his entire, and at times noteworthy, career as an enlisted man. He was not in the Special Forces, as he allows others to say, nor was he any different from the thousands of other Sailors who did the same job he did, but unlike them… Can You Keep a Secret?
    So Can I
    Bank Left Malcolm

  63. SCPO Nance,
    As a former U.S. Navy SERE Instructor 1983-1986 at the East Cost Training Facility I am deeply disturbed at your discussion of the SERE training techniques that might used to train our high risk of capture Sailors and Marines.
    Upon your Transfer from FASOTRAGRUPAC SERE I’m sure that you signed a non disclosure statement stating that you would not discuss the training techniques used during the SERE Training process.
    I’m sure you know the saying: What I DO here, What I SAY here, What I SEE here, It Reamains here, When I leave here….. Don’t You??
    The question of whether a certain interrogation or torture technique is being used or not used by the United States Government is not the point I’m making.
    My point is that you may have put our Sailors and Marines at risk if they become Prisoners of War.
    Your discussion made under the guise as a “Subject Matter Expert” IS Unsatisfactory.
    R/ PO1 USN_RET

  64. For the record, I’m the guy that Al in St. Lou was quoting in the initial comment.
    coldwarrior415 and anyone else interested in shedding some light on Malcolm’s claims, feel free to contact me. I’m in communication with many folks who, like me, worked with Malcolm during his Navy career. Most of us were Arabic linguists, doing the same job as Malcolm. I’m sure we can get to the bottom of things.
    My email address is cq * texasnative dot com. Of course, replace the asterisk with the appropriate at symbol.

  65. PO1
    From time to time I still think about my “vacation” at SERE (Warner Springs Dec ’85). You guys are awesome.
    Your training came in handy later in my career. Hope I never need to use it “for real”. Enjoy your retirement. You’ve earned it.

  66. Nance lied. Period. Waterboarding does not produce any physical damage and no permanent pschological damage. AW1 Tim said it well.
    I also played with the SERE folks, holding the short end of that stick. Didn’t kill me. However, it did make me want to apply the technique to those who violate 18 USC Section 2388…
    It’s time we had a USAG willing to bust some chops, as they say…

  67. When I was very young, I had a grandmother who cound not resist the urge to wipe off dirty faces with a wet cloth.
    I absolutely hated that.
    I hated the feeling of cold and wet against my face. I hated the feeling of my airway being restricted, even for a few seconds.
    This despite the fact that I was not restrained, was right-side-up, and was well away from any flowing water.
    Now it’s been years since anyone has shoved a wet cloth in my face. Decades, actually. But I’d probably still object to having my airway blocked off with a wet cloth.
    If that experience is enough to cause the amount of upset it did, I think there’s an awful lot of room for major nastiness before you get close to any real danger.

  68. Didn’t read all the comments (no time til I get home from work) so I’m sure someboody’s touched on this above, but: always and everywhere illegal? Really? He knows where in Manhattan the the A-bomb stolen from Russia is located, and when it is set to go off, but when politely questioned, he demures.
    Waterboard him? Go right ahead. And if that doesn’t work….

  69. For my own self I would like to see waterboarding treated the same as the use of lethal force against another human being; Normally illegal except for certain narrowly defined circumstances where it may be deemed justifiable by post facto legal review.
    I’d rather face a jury of my peers for causing pain and suffering to another human being than have the deaths of many on my conscience forever but I want everyone who does deliberately cause pain and suffering to face justice for his acts.

  70. Ed:
    I see your update reports something that has been likewise reported on Fox News and the WSJ, that Congress passed up the chance to outlaw waterboarding when it denied an amendment proposed by Senator Kennedy. The description of Congress’ actions is misleading. Kennedy’s amendment proposed making it clear that the conduct of other countries would violate the Geneva convention, stating
    “should any United States person to whom the Geneva Conventions apply be subjected to any of the following acts, the United States would consider such act to constitute a punishable offense under common Article 3 … .”
    Kennedy’s amendment identified the following acts as a violation: “forcing the person to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner; applying beatings, electric shocks, burns, or other forms of physical pain to the person; waterboarding the person; using dogs on the person; inducing hypothermia or heat injury in the person; conducting a mock execution of the person; and depriving the person of necessary food, water, or medical care.”
    The problem with inferring, from Congress’ refusal to pass this amendment, that Congress must believe waterboarding is lawful is that, by the same logic, you could argue that Congress believed delivering electric shocks, burns, and forcing prisoners to perform sexual acts was lawful.
    I think Congress rejected this amendment merely to protect US personnel from prosecution in Europe or elsewhere over their actions at Abu Ghraib, or because the Republicans saw it as a slap at the Bush Administration (which it clearly was), not because Congress believe that electric shock and burns and waterboarding are lawful interrogation techniques.

  71. If a terrorist is withholding information that could save the lives of yankees living in northern liberal cities, then by all means, treat him with the tender care and consideration expected of the civilized, cultured people that we are. But if he has information that could save the precious lives of southerners living in the heavenly South, burn the bastard at the stake; rip of his hide; draw and quarter him; stuff pork rinds down his throat; show him pictures of nekkid women. Teach him and his miserable muslim comrades the true fury of an enraged foot-washing, snake-handling Southern Baptist.

  72. Re Congress’s failure to specifically define waterboarding as torture in 2006:
    a) That was a Congress with more Republicans in it, as I recall.
    b) That was a Congress that had had several previous pieces of legislation signed by the president with a statement that of course the executive reserved to itself to the power to do whatever was necessary to fulfill its duties.
    c) Therefore an AG who promises to treat waterboarding as torture and to enforce that rule on the rest of the executive branch may be more effective in ensuring that waterboarding doesn’t happen, than is a law that the executive claims doesn’t apply when the executive doesn’t want it to.

  73. I cannot reconcile the blanket condemnation of waterboarding with its continued use in SERE. Torturing our own is not moral. And if you can waterboard without it being torture, the question then becomes what *sort* of waterboarding happened and was it torture? Is it possible to use non-torture waterboarding and gain information from illegal combatants?
    Dealing with our SERE training history is vital and Nance doesn’t help out there at all, his position essentially being that we should torture our own.
    The Japanese officer convicted of war crimes in 1947 is real enough ( and his name was Yukio Asano. The charge sheet includes “water torture” but that’s not the only charge. Here’s the rest of the story:
    Docket Date: 53/ May 1 – 28, 1947, Yokohama, Japan
    Charge: Violation of the Laws and Customs of War: 1. Did willfully and unlawfully mistreat and torture PWs. 2. Did unlawfully take and convert to his own use Red Cross packages and supplies intended for PWs.
    Specifications:beating using hands, fists, club; kicking; water torture; burning using cigarettes; strapping on a stretcher head downward
    Verdict: 15 years CHL
    Now subtract out water torture and ask yourself how much the sentence would have changed. If he had just burnt cig holes in POWs, clubbed them, and beat them with his hands and fists, does anybody seriously maintain that he’d have gotten a different sentence?

  74. The water torture that was involved in Yukio Asano’s indictment is not at all similar to that recognized within the Community as “waterboarding.” Submersion, and forcing water into the body is basically the technique utilized by Asana and a number of other Japanese officers and NCO’s on a wholesale level, as well as just about all Kempei Tai officers across the Empire.
    Again, the discussion as to what is to be permissible under Law and what is to be proscibed under law is again being muddied by the introduction of WWII war crimes cases that involved matters that while appearing to be “waterboarding” are in fact distinct procedures.
    As for Nance, he was the subject of the lead article in today’s website [a web site largely devoted to serving military members and their families] and Nance is still being bandied about as some sort of “expert.” The article was essentially an Associated Press reprint of the above referenced Nance’ website article on this thread. But again, few questions are being asked by the MSM as to the authenticity of Nance nor about what constitutes waterboarding and what is obviously “Chinese Water Torture” of old B-movie scripts.

  75. Ed,
    I am another person who had contact with Malcolm Nance during my time in the Navy, specifically, at Naval Security Group Activity, Rota, Spain. I was a CTI and Hebrew linguist there at the same time that Malcolm was there. Malcolm and another enlisted man whose name I don’t recall at the moment were very conspicuous at the command in attempting to raise their profile by beating their chests and touting their exploits with the SEALs. Both of them at one time or another intimated to anyone who would listen that they were SEALs (they were not, the other one had washed out of BUDS and Malcom had spent time with the Army (or so he claimed)). They were able to convince the command to allow them to put on a “SEAL support” squadron within the command that was basically a dog and pony show to allow them to play soldier of fortune (and I emphasize the word play). Several of my friends decided to play along, but I felt like the whole thing was phony and they both seemed like poseurs to me. In the end the charade came to an end when one of then (I was told it was Malcolm) was insubordinate to a commissioned officer who supervised the program. I also wholeheartedly agree with the characterization of Malcolm as a self-aggrandizing publicity hound. That is him to a tee. He was always the King of the unsolicited war story or sea story and never passed up a chance to add to his personal legend. Finally, almost all of the stuff he claims to have done in his resume is false. It just wasn’t possible. This was not a big-wig or an expert, just a run of the mill Navy enlisted man who was a little too grandiose (which doesn’t go over well in the crypto community and which also explains why he ended up as an instructor at SERE school). I believe Malcolm retired from the Navy as a Chief Petty Officer (E-7); however, if he had really been as big of a star in the crypto community as he claims then he would have been promoted to a commissioned officer as several of my friends have been. If he had been anywhere near as good as he claims to be he would have retired as an Admiral, but then you never would have heard of him because that would mean he would have kept his mouth shut, not appeared on Fox News spouting classified information to the whole world. Think about it. Tell me the name of the last Navy Admiral expert on cryptology or intelligence you remember who is a household name. (**crickets chirping**)

  76. Re legal definition of torture: I went into some detail here, but key points:
    * torture produces “severe physical or mental pain or suffering”
    * severe physical suffering is generally understood to mean permanent imparement or loss of function
    * severe mental pain, by law, must cause prolonged effects
    * torture requires specific intent to cause severe physical or mental harm (i.e. the interrogator wants to cause permanent harm or does actions that in good faith should know have a good chance of causing permanent damage)
    So, as specifically related to waterboarding, it demonstrably does not have a history of producing severe physical or mental pain or suffering. As such, when employed as an interrogation technique (i.e. not as an attempt to cause severe physical or mental pain or suffering, which it probably wouldn’t do any way) even if, by some strange twist of fate, the result was the first documented permanent imparement resulting from waterboarding, the interrogator could not possibly have had a reasonable expectation that it would do what it never had before, thereby failing the specific intent requirement. (whew, sorry for the tortured grammar)
    This is all academic, though, as are the questions as to why Congress, now that the Democrats are firmly in the majority, don’t specifically outlaw this terrible technique. There is no genuine interest in the party as a whole in either waterboarding or detainee rights except as far as they may be used as bats to hammer the Republican opposition with and obtain politcal advantage. It’s just like Charlie Rangel’s silly draft bill. As others have pointed out, waterboarding has only been used with three detainees and the last time was in 2004, so it really is neither a significant tool nor a particularly timely issue. The Democrats are only interested in waterboarding to the extent it makes usable political theater.

  77. Further on Ansano it should be noted he was convicted of a class B crime (violation of the rules of war, Geneva conventions) not a class C crime (crime against humanity, Convention against Torture), so using his conviction to talk about torture is a non-starter (in fact the only case where the US has tried anyone for waterboarding alone as torture resulted in an acquital on the torture charge – I forget the case but it was the 1902-3 one from the Phillipines the WP brought up last sunday for some reason).
    As far as the US reservation on the Convention Against Torture, the US reservation started with the US reserving the right to use its own definition of torture under the 8th amendmendment. Irrelevant which is more restrictive, the US is agreed to the convention only insofar as the convention aligns to the *th amendment.

  78. Why do I keep hearing Jack Nicholson as Col. Jessup… “you want me in that interrogation room, you need me in that interrogation room.” Why can’t we just borrow a phrase from Slick Willy. Waterboarding should be just like a partial birth abortion… safe, legal and rare.

  79. Amazing after all these years how Malcom can still get folks excited. This comment section looks like old home week for Athens and Rota spooks… I haven’t read the claims Malcom is making now, but I can say that humility was never one of his strong points. I will vouch for the commenters above (Hey Boyd!)… former Squid’s description is accurate. Since the purpose of blogging is to clarify things, let me add some insights…
    Keith – Embellishment and shading aside, Malcom is not “one of those phoney Soldiers and REMF” unless that’s what you consider all direct support cryptologists to be. As Sean noted, Malcom was an early proponent of direct CT support to Specwar, but he believed that CT’s should be shooters or as close as possible to “the action.” Most of us disagreed, and felt that line of sight was sufficient to do our jobs. It was a policy/doctrinal dispute. Bottom line is REMF is pejorative that no direct support cryptologist deserves.
    coldwarrior – Good research, may I submit that “Chief of SERE Training” probably translates to “SERE Training Chief” or “Chief (Petty Officer assigned duty in) SERE Training.” I don’t doubt that he may have spoken with “Colonel Nick Rowe, Deiter Dengler, John McCain, and James Stockdale, among others, regarding torture.” SERE and the aviation community often had POW guest speakers. I do think that “interviewed” may be a bit strong, maybe like going to a luncheon for 300 people and saying you “had lunch with the Governor.” I remember reading the line about “…trying to complete his Doctorate … Advanced IED and Suicide Bomber Studies at Martyr Zarqawi Hall, Iraq Campus.” I understood it was written while he was working as a contractor in Iraq took it as completely tongue in cheek, not as an embellishment of credentials.
    I’m not here to defend Malcom, I did that for him prior to his transfer to SERE, and it was certainly thankless, but I do think we should keep the facts straight.
    That said, his description of waterboarding is another example of his writing talent. Treat it as such.

  80. PO1 USN_RET,
    Looks like I just missed you (went through Maine in the summer of 82) but would like to echo the sentiments of “Thanks!” You guys did a great job with the course.

  81. SOunds like the first step is that “waterboarding” as it would be used for interrogation purposes needs to be defined (preferably behind closed doors – as if it would stay secret), and then a decision can be accurately made. Right now I doubt that anyone knows what “waterboarding” is, precisely. Everyone has their own definition.

  82. CaptainAmerica,
    “Withholding sex. Diminished,inedible rations. Sleep deprivation. Forced labor. Isolation. Mental, verbal abuse.”
    Sounds like cruise.

  83. yea torture violates geneva convention.
    The same geneva convention that codifies the rules of armies killing each other.
    It like a bad monty python skit-
    we glibbly accept killing and maiming of civilians and the enemy, but don’t dare put a terrorists head under water, that would violate the contract that provides for the rules of killing each other.
    Do I like the idea that we torture people to get info? no, but it seems more reasonable than giving ksm three hots and a cot for murdering 2700 civilians.

  84. ACLU Finds Secret Torture Memos; Leftards Waterboard One Another

    Update 2: AP confirms it was faked:
    The process was supposed to resemble the process that CIA interrogators are believed to have used on terror detainees until a few years ago. However, Ebrahimzadeh’s interrogators put a plastic cage between his fac…

  85. Waterboarded Logic

    One side argues that waterboarding is torture, therefore, we must ban it. The other side argues that waterboarding is definitely not torture, because we need it.
    To both sides of the debate: would it kill you to consider the possibility that waterboar…

  86. In my experience, the ASA/INSCOM community (the Army’s version of the Navy crypto community that spawned Nance) was our biggest generator of Walter Mittys, four-flushers, wannabees and blowfish.
    Intelligence guys in general were a close second. We had a Nance type in 10th MI Company, 10th SF Group, in the early eighties. His name was Brian Sirois. He wound up reduced to E1 and chaptered out after being caught with a “leave uniform” he’s had made up with unauthorised badges. Now he’s serving life in prison for murdering his wife… one more example of how military-service exaggeration is usually a marker for extremely deep character disorders.
    And like I said, the MI guys were by far the worst offenders. They usually had the requisite gift of gab and narcissism.
    A lot of good, solid professionals work in the field, doing stuff that can’t ever be written up. But the self-aggrandizing wannabee commando is a recurrent type in the field.
    It’s ironic, in that the one way in the Army (short of self-mutilation) to get out of that perennially short-handed field is to go to Special Forces selection (or something similar). I presume that the Navy offers SEAL training on a similar basis — meet the minimum standards, and volunteer, and if you pass you’re a SEAL… if not you go crawling back to the fleet.
    Nance didn’t try, evidently, or at least didn’t succeed, but he sure does like to woof $#!+, doesn’t he?
    Crypto or linguistic support to SOF isn’t anything new. According to open sources, the ASA SODs started in about 1958. They set several models for what SOF technical-means intel support does today. Many such techniques are vital to the Global War on Tourism. None of them involve the linguists kicking doors with the operators. It just. Doesn’t. Happen. It NEVER did.
    Nance appears to be a career liar, exaggerator, and fabricator. I can’t wait to ask a couple of retired-SEAL compadres about him.
    The intel guys had a term for information like that Nance provided to the NYDN: BOGINT.

  87. As others have mentioned, waterboarding was torture in 1945 and 1946 when we convicted the Japanese of doing it to our soldiers. It should be considered torture now, and we should not consider it to be legal. If we change our standards about what is, and is not, torture because we are doing it now, as opposed to then… That says a lot about who we are, and a lot about who we used to be.

  88. Ed, it`s commendable that you`re willing to take the position that waterboarding should be declared illegal, and I agree that Congress can make this crystal clear.
    But it`s a little odd that you ignore that:
    – Republicans have run the Congress for most of the past seven years;
    – until the Bush administration, the operating assumption was that US law DID outlaw torture (and waterboarding); and
    – even if the Congress were to pass a law, there is zero certainty as to whether the Bush administration would consider the “law” as binding in the face of his Constitutinoal prerogatives to ignore the Constitution and laws.
    How about directing some of your attention to where this problem arose and still rests – the Administration?
    Sure, I`d like my Congresscritters to have a stiffer spine. I`d like you to have one too.

  89. The objections to torture are:
    (1) If we do it, the enemy will feel free to do it, too.
    (2) The “information” gained through torture is unreliable and cannot be acted upon.
    I prefer (3):  civilized human beings DO NOT USE TORTURE.

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