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Friday, January 4, 2008
AIM, Farah Heart Waterboarding
Topic: Accuracy in Media

It must have been talking points handout week in the ConWeb, because two ConWeb outlets feel the need to proclaim that waterboarding is not torture.

A Jan. 2 WorldNetDaily column by Joseph Farah kicked it off, insisting that Americans are stupid:

Many Americans are simply confused about the real definition of torture. Since so little sacrifice is required of most Americans today and because so few have ever experienced combat, they equate momentary discomfort or fear with torture. They are not the same.

My definition of torture is simple: It involves physical or mental abuse that leaves lasting scars. Cutting off fingers, toes, limbs – that would be torture. Forcing prisoners to play Russian roulette – that would be torture. Sticking hot pokers in the eyes of prisoners – that would be torture.

But a few seconds of dripping water on a prisoner's face? That's not torture to me.

A Jan. 3 AIM Report spouts a remarkably similar line:

The word "torture," as groups like CCR bandy about the term, doesn't mean what most people think it means. It has become a politically loaded term that left-wingers associate with anything that makes an accused terrorist feel uncomfortable. One of the most objectionable procedures is said to be pouring water over the face of a suspected terrorist. It is a matter of opinion whether this practice, known as waterboarding, is torture or not. Calling it torture doesn't make it so. 

Waterboarding doesn't leave any lasting physical or psychological damage, which is usually the mark of torture. And its use cannot necessarily be considered a violation of the Constitution, U.S. laws or U.N. treaties. It has reportedly been successful in forcing confessions of terrorist plots. 

As we've previously noted, there is evidence that waterboarding can, in fact, result in "lasting physical or psychological damage," in Kincaid's words. As we've also noted, the results gained from waterboarding have been questioned.

The AIM Report also stated that, quoting author Jack Goldsmith, the Clinton Justice Department "signed off on the CIA's original rendition program of snatching people from one country and taking them to another for questioning, trial, and punishment." That ignores the full story; as the New York Times reported (via Media Matters), renditions were carried out under much more restrictive rules before 9/11 than after it under the Bush administration. For instance, under the original rules, the transfers of individual prisoners required review and approval by interagency groups led by the White House, and were usually authorized to bring prisoners to the United States or to other countries to face criminal charges. Meanwhile, under Bush, the CIA has been authorized to transfer prisoners to other countries solely for the purpose of detention and interrogation.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:55 PM EST

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