I Could Have Stopped Waterboarding Before It Happened
An exclusive account from the CIA’s former top lawyer.
About a week [after the capture of Zubaydah], a couple of our lawyers (our contingent at the CTC had tripled from three to nine since 9/11) came to my office. They told me about a different approach the CTC had just devised to deal with Zubaydah. It had a deceptively bland name: “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” and from the start they were called EITs for short. During my previous 25 years as an Agency lawyer, I had never heard of anything remotely like this.
Evidently aware of the distinct possibility that what they were proposing would scare the hell out of me, the CTC contingent prefaced their presentation with a number of assurances: The EITs they were proposing to employ on Zubaydah were not techniques the CTC had just dreamed up; with a couple of exceptions, the U.S. military had used them for years in training exercises (called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) on thousands of soldiers to prepare them in case they were captured and subjected to such methods by the enemy. Further, CTC analysts, psychologists and a couple of outside consultants had carefully culled only those EITs from the SERE menu that they believed best suited, and most likely, to break Zubaydah’s resistance. Finally, the EITs would be judiciously applied, beginning with the ones that were least coercive, for a limited period of time, and would end as soon as Zubaydah demonstrated that he was no longer resisting and was ready to cooperate. They had no intention of employing EITs any longer or any more harshly than was absolutely necessary. While I don’t remember them saying it exactly, their message was implicit: We want no part of torture.