Cliff May writes:
A Corner exclusive: How many times have you read and heard in the mainstream media that terrorists were waterboarded more than 180 times?
It turns out that’s not true. What is?
According to two sources, both of them very well-informed and reliable (but preferring to remain anonymous), the 180-plus times refers not to sessions of waterboarding, but to “pours” — that is, to instances of water being poured on the subject.
Under a strict set of rules, every pour of water had to be counted — and the number of pours was limited.
Also: Waterboarding interrogation sessions were permitted on no more than five days within any 30-day period.
No more than two sessions were permitted in any 24-hour period.
A session could last no longer than two hours.
There could be at most six pours of water lasting ten seconds or longer — and never longer than 40 seconds — during any individual session.
Water could be poured on a subject for a combined total of no more than 12 minutes during any 24 hour period.
You do the math.
Even if true, I see this as a distinction without a difference. For years, the operating assumption was that KSM was waterboarded in one 90-second session, and then broke down. This conveyed a sense that the practice was used in a singular, last ditch effort to get him to talk, and lended credence to the idea that this kind of thing would only be used to prevent an imminent attack — the so-called “ticking time bomb” scenario. Now the argument is that it wasn’t 183 sessions, but 183 pours, and that the session could last no longer than two hours and it couldn’t be performed for more than five days in a month. Whatever the case, we now know that the technique was employed more often than we originally thought, and the fact that it was done over the course of a month undermines the idea of a “ticking time bomb.” Since we’re now operating with a different set of facts, at least in my case, it’s forced me to reexamine my own stance on this issue, even though abstractly I think that waterboarding is morally justifiable if using the technique is the only way to save thousands of innocent lives.
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