In an attack on the McCain amendment, Andrew McCarthy opines:
... the best way to prevent torture is not to bar all forms of coercion, even those that fall well short of torture, with a law that you actually hope no one will pay attention to when the moment of truth arrives.
The best way, the honest, bright-line way, is to acknowledge that there are circumstances in which coercive interrogation would be appropriate; to be forthright about what those circumstances are and the lengths you would be willing to go; to require personal approval by a very high-ranking executive-branch official who would then be accountable; and to prove you mean business by aggressively prosecuting anyone and anything that does not meet the rigorous standards you've taken pains to establish.
Fine. Except that McCarthy fails to tell us "the lengths [he] would be willing to go." So, if I had the chance to ask a follow up question, it would be: Which of the following techniques of coercive interrogation allegedly being used by the CIA do you believe are appropriate? And why?
1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.
2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.
3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.
4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.
5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.
6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.
Actually, that news report doesn't quite do water boarding justice. So here's another description:
It involves tying the victim to a board with the head lower than the feet so that he or she is unable to move. A piece of cloth is held tightly over the face, and water is poured onto the cloth. Breathing is extremely difficult and the victim will be in imminent fear of death by asphyxiation. However, it is relatively difficult to aspirate a large amount of water since the lungs are higher than the mouth, and the victim is unlikely to actually expire if this is done by skilled torturers. (Link)
Or how about these techniques?
- Withholding medical care
- Strappado, a.k.a., Palestinian hanging, "in which a victim is suspended in the air by means of a rope attached to his hands which are tied behind his back."
- Sleep deprivation
- Long-term stress body positions (such as the use of boxes in which the detainee may neither stand nor lie down)
- Exploitation of phobias (remember the rat scene in Orwell's 1984?)
- Sensory deprivation