After digging through the newly-disclosed Office of Legal Counsel memos, my friend Marcy Wheeler of Firedoglake discovered that CIA interrogators waterboarded 9/11 architect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed 183 times in one month. The New York Times piece that follows up today appropriately acknowledges Marcy’s discovery. (Full disclosure: my personal blog is hosted by FDL.) Marcy’s keen eye for close reading deserves widespread praise.
One thing, substantively: I’ve seen some people mock the idea that what the memos show is actually indicative of a torture regime. Caterpillars in a box? C’mon. .. Let’s cede that objection for the sake of argument.
What the 2005 memos show — and really, it’s what the 2004 CIA Inspector General report shows, since it’s that still-unreleased report that the 2005 memos reference to deal with how the interrogation regime worked in practice — is that once you relax the restrictions on torture, it’s extremely difficult in practice to not cross the subsequently established lines. If it’s acceptable to waterboard someone once, why not twice, and three times, and so forth. But the Senate Armed Services Committee report last year found that the torture techniques for the exceptional cases of Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed wound up in use at Guantanamo Bay; and the Schlesinger report on Abu Ghraib in 2004 found that the torture techniques “migrated” from Guantanamo Bay (Geneva Conventions-free) to Iraq (Geneva Conventions-required).