As a former master instructor and chief of training at the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, I know the waterboard personally and intimately. Our staff was required to undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception.You simply don't need to have access to any of the Bush administration's classified documents to know waterboarding is torture.
I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school's interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques employed by the Army and the CIA for its terror suspects. What is less frequently reported is that our training was designed to show how an evil totalitarian enemy would use torture at the slightest whim.
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.
It always was torture.
Waterboarding was torture in 1947, when the United States prosecuted a Japanese military officer, Yukio Asano, for waterboarding on a U.S. civilian during World War II. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
And waterboarding was torture in 2005, when the U.S. Department of State formally recognized "submersion of the head in water" as torture in its examination of Tunisia's record of human rights abuses.
Today, even some Republicans understand that waterboarding is torture.
Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a military lawyer, knows it's torture. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was tortured as a POW in Vietnam, said it "torture, no different than holding a pistol to his head and firing a blank."
But too many Republicans in Congress still need a magic piece of paper from George Bush to decide:
“I haven’t been briefed on it,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).Let's all pray that GOP leaders don't need a "classified briefing" to tell them whether or not ripping and tearing out fingernails is torture.
“You know, you are talking about a classified matter,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “So I am not really comfortable talking about it.”
“Under exigent circumstances like the loss of thousands of citizens, a president would be derelict in his duty if he didn’t use all the resources he had,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), when asked whether he personally believed waterboarding is torture.
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it depends.
“The issue may turn on a standard of does it shock the conscience, and that could involve a great many factors,” Specter said. ***
“I haven’t gotten the classified briefing yet,” [Lamar Smith (R-TX) top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee] said.