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January 31, 2013

Slate: The case for torture

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

3. The human library was part of the will-breaking process.

"Because we had other prisoners in our black sites, we would be able to check information against others. And they [detainees] knew that," said Rodriguez. In this way, simply holding detainees in opaque confinement gave interrogators leverage.

4. We had tested enhanced interrogation techniques on ourselves.

Rodriguez said he quickly accepted the use of enhanced interrogation in part because "I knew that many of these procedures were applied to our own servicemen. Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers had gone through this." If these methods were safe and moral to use on Americans, weren't they safe and moral to use on our enemies?

5. Freelancing was forbidden.

Rizzo outlined some rules for enhanced interrogation: No interrogator was allowed to use a waterboard without first submitting written justification, and only the CIA director could approve it. So, for what it's worth, there were internal checks on the practice, at least because the CIA would be politically accountable for what its interrogators did.

6. Rules were a weakness, and ambiguity was leverage.

While citing the program's rules as a moral defense, the panelists also groused that the rules cost them leverage. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for instance, noticed a time limit on waterboarding. "Pretty quickly, he recognized that within 10 seconds we would stop pouring water," said Rodriguez. "He started to count with his fingers, up to 10, just to let us know that the time was up." Hayden said that when the incoming Obama administration ruled out enhanced interrogation, he requested a caveat: "unless otherwise authorized by the president." This, he explained, would create "ambiguity" so that anyone captured in the future couldn't be "quite sure what would happen" to them.

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