Imagine falling into the hands of your enemy. You are searched, stripped in an effort to find weapons or other contraband. Your hands and feet are shackled or tied. You are forced to lie upon a board to which you are fastened, immobile and incapable of any act of resistance. Your feet are elevated, making your head lower than the rest of your body. Your face is wrapped in cellophane and water is poured over you. You gag, mortally afraid that you are being drowned. Welcome to the wonderful world of waterboarding.
Waterboarding is one of 6 enhanced interrogation techniques applied to the extraction of information from certain detainees in the War on Terror. Almost all are al Qaeda operatives.
The efficacy of the technique has been questioned by some, noting that the technique borders on torture. They cite that when a prisoner is threatened, scared, or hurt badly enough, that prisoner will confess to anything just to stop any further interrogation. That creates a doubt as to the veracity of any information extracted. Corroborating information is necessary to back up information derived via these 'advanced techniques'.
The technique has become a factor recently in the confirmation of Michael Mukasey as US Attorney General, a Bush nominee for the position made vacant by the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales effective September 17, 2007. Mukasey declined to testify as to whether waterboarding was legal, citing he had not been fully briefed on the topic.
Waterboarding dates from the 1500s, when it was employed during the Italian Inquisition. CIA operatives who underwent the technique resisted for an average of 14 seconds before surrendering. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed endured the practice from 2 to 2.5 minutes before begging for an opportunity to confess, earning the admiration of his captors.
The subject of the technique believes they are being killed by slow drowning and are totally helpless to prevent it.
Debate on the topic rages on with proponents insisting it is a necessary tool in the hunt for information. Detractors note that it is against many widely accepted conventions regarding behavior in conflict, including the Geneva Convention. Foes of this position claim al Qaeda does not conform to the definition of 'enemy combatant' under the Geneva Convention.