There Better Be a Helluva Lot of Ticks Left In That Bomb

One of the favorite canards of the pro-torture Jack Bauer fetishists, behind only “this resembles fraternity pranks” and “but we do this in SERE,” has always been the “ticking time-bomb” scenario:

Simply stated, the consequentialist argument is that nations, even those such as the United States that legally disallow torture, can justify its use if they have a suspect in custody whom they feel sure possesses critical knowledge, such as the location of a time bomb or a weapon of mass destruction that will soon explode and cause great loss of life.

What the torture fetishists want, of course, is not to have the option to torture in these bizarre ticking time scenarios that will never happen outside a Hollywood plot, but to justify torture, period. In the debate over waterboarding, the ticking time-bomb scenario was frequently brought up, most recently in Holder’s confirmation hearing:

At any rate, Emptywheel brings this to our attention:

I’ve put this detail in a series of posts, but it really deserves a full post. According to the May 30, 2005 Bradbury memo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.

On page 37 of the OLC memo, in a passage discussing the differences between SERE techniques and the torture used with detainees, the memo explains:

The CIA used the waterboard “at least 83 times during August 2002” in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.

Note, the information comes from the CIA IG report which, in the case of Abu Zubaydah, is based on having viewed the torture tapes as well as other materials. So this is presumably a number that was once backed up by video evidence.

There better be a pretty damned long fuse on that ticking time bomb.

And yes, this is nothing but pure sadism.

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83 replies
  1. 1
    bago says:

    It’s ticking in the mosaic sense of intelligence gathering. At least that is their notion. Of course because adding bad data points to your mosaic has a much worse effect on the accuracy of your view than a slowdown in the addition of good points of data their argument is completely ruined. A few bad seeds introduced into a graph has far more deleterious effects than a slowing of the addition of good points to the graph. Bad nodes ruin every node they are linked with.

  2. 2

    What the FUCK.

    It honestly had not occurred to me they’d waterboard a guy 183 times.

    Surely after the initial 180 times they would have to admit ‘at this point we’re just doing this for fun’?

  3. 3

    Waterboarding a human being 183 times?

    There’s no “protecting the nation’s security” rationalization that can excuse this.

    This is just pure sadism.

    -A

  4. 4
    bago says:

    In other words, the argument is based on the mosaic principle, but if you understand what that means, it makes the argument even worse.

    It’s like rerouting straight exhaust into your air supply in a combustion engine. It increases pressure, sure, but uhm, there’s no oxygen.

  5. 5
    Cat Lady says:

    I’ve said this before, but I’m sure everything to do with torture went through Cheney. We’re going to be learning what a twisted sick fuck this guy is for years to come.

  6. 6

    Well obviously the fact that the U.S. waterboarded prisoners in secret is the reason there have been no terrorists attacks* on U.S. soil … because … uh …

    Fuck it. What Chris Johnson said.

    *+/- a few.

  7. 7
    Alan says:

    I thought the people broke down in just a few seconds when water boarded. So why the many additional times?…shits and grins?

    We all hate zero tolerance laws because they end up being abused. Gee whiz, who would’ve thunk sadists would abuse executive leniency on torture.

  8. 8
    Llelldorin says:

    @bago:

    I’m trying to remember. Doesn’t the mosaic principle, as composed with torture,run something like this?

    Sure, each individual piece of information that we get through torture is crap, but if we take enormous amounts of such crap from a wide variety of (tortured) sources, carefully sift through it all, combine items that appear to be related together, and finally assemble the whole thing into a single gestalt on a bulletin board, then a pattern emerges: that we’ve painted one of our HQ walls in shit. Also, we need a new, nicer HQ, since the old one now smells really bad.

  9. 9
    JL says:

    Cornyn is an ass. Can Texas secede now. There are several states that can benefit from NASA head quarters and the FEMA budget could be decreased.

  10. 10
    smiley says:

    It’s really simple. They thought it would work, all evidence to the contrary. Sadists at the top. I suspect the White House and their motivation was reelection. As simple as that.

  11. 11
    demkat620 says:

    I don’t know what to say. Every time you think we’ve found the lowest gutter the Bushies were willing to drag our honor through, they find another.

    May they all burn in hell. And Jay Bybee’s ass needs impeached. Yesterday.

  12. 12
    asiangrrlMN says:

    Someone posted this in another thread on another site. It’s very sobering:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/poli.....hens200808

    In a nutshell, Christopher Hitchens agrees to undergo waterboarding. It was in a very controlled environment; he could stop at any time; he knew he wasn’t getting killed. Still, he had to sign a waiver that stated he understood there were no guarantees.

    Want to guess how long he lasted?

    There’s a link to the video, too.

  13. 13
    smiley says:

    @Llelldorin:

    Sure, each individual piece of information that we get through torture is crap, but if we take enormous amounts of such crap from a wide variety of (tortured) sources, carefully sift through it all, combine items that appear to be related together, and finally assemble the whole thing into a single gestalt on a bulletin board, then a pattern emerges: that we’ve painted one of our HQ walls in shit. Also, we need a new, nicer HQ, since the old one now smells really bad.

    Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

  14. 14
    Keith G says:

    It wasn’t torture for information. It was retrobution. “We are f*cking you over (and over) just because we can.”

  15. 15
    Warren Terra says:

    I’m sure it was the excellent results from the first hundred waterboardings that led them to conclude that most of another hundred were necessary.
    Also note that’s not just 183 waterboardings, it’s 183 within one month. That’s a minimum of a half-dozen times a day, with many days likely including a dozen or more waterboardings.

  16. 16
    linda says:

    of course those who committed these atrocities were sadists. what type of mind thinks of encasing a man in a coffin and putting insects they know he is terrified of inside with him.

    depraved fucking monsters.

  17. 17
    b-psycho says:

    Wouldn’t the shock wear off after the 20th time? Or am I missing a reflex that’d make the umpteenth as bad as the 1st?

    Serious question, I honestly don’t know.

  18. 18
    DougJ says:

    There better be a pretty damned long fuse on that ticking time bomb.

    Gallows humor at its best.

    This is really disturbing.

  19. 19
    Jackmormon says:

    b-psycho—I’ve read that the reflex to panic is completely involuntary; it’s the body reacting to the threat of oxygen deprivation.

    And holy shit, I was shocked and horrified when I though KSM had been waterboarded five or ten times. 183 times is just madness.

  20. 20
    John Cole says:

    @b-psycho: It will feel the same every time.

  21. 21
    AhabTRuler says:

    This is really disturbing.

    Ah, understatement. I recognize that.

    It is physically sickening.

  22. 22
    Alan says:

    @b-psycho:

    After the 20th time I suspect those doing the water boarding began to play a bit with the process.

  23. 23
    John H. Farr says:

    Not prosecuting everyone involved, from the bottom to the top, would be like letting rabid, pain-crazed tigers loose to prowl among the populace. Not only are a lot of people guilty as hell, but they’re obviously good at what they do and will likely end up in law enforcement somewhere. I’ve encountered several of those in my time, all of them before 911, so I know we don’t need any more.

    At the very least, they need help. At the very most, they’re a danger to us all.

  24. 24
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    I said this, jeebus I think I said this half a dozen times, any moron who thinks that you are going to get actionable intelligence by torturing some poor shit who has been incarcerated for three years is, well, a fucking moron. What is the guy going to tell you? Well three years ago they were thinking of hijacking the Heathrow to New York flight on 9/11/2002 and flying it into the Whitehouse. Jeebusmaryandjosephonapogostick how can ANYONE listen to this bullshit and not think that the people who were conducting these tortures were not just government sanctioned sadists? And if that is the case then there needs to be a complete purge of the system to get these sick fucks out of there, there is no way we should be sanctioning this shit and no way we should be paying these sick fuckers to be indulging in their sickness.

  25. 25
    sgwhiteinfla says:

    Listen this is why the conservative position on torture is so ridiculous. Look at all the contradictions. They say

    1. Its not really torture because it ain’t so bad. Just a little scary.

    2. Its VERY effective and how we got a lot of information.

    3. It was bad to release the memos because now terrorists know all the stuff we won’t do.

    But before that they said…

    4. The Red Cross report is all wrong and full of lies. We would NEVER do all the stuff the detainees described.

    The truth is the conservatives are playing with fire here and they don’t realize it. The more they keep convincing people on the left and in the middle of this country that they don’t believe this stuff was torture, the more they are going to convince an overwhelming majority of people that if they ever get back in power they plan on torturing again. I don’t know of anybody but the staunches Republicans who say we should torture people, and that includes people in my circle who watch “24” all the time. The more information about all the reprehensible shit that was ordered comes out the more the Republicans are going to get buried by it.

    By the way, Emptywheel also has a very good post up about how the four former CIA chiefs were just trying to cover their own asses with the letter they sent to President Obama to try to get him not to release the memos.

  26. 26
    sgwhiteinfla says:

    One more thing to point out that Emptywheel brings up.

    Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in a month. Literally in the memos they say that he was waterboarded exactly one time more than was necessary. Let. That. Sink. In.

    Whomever judges such things decided that the first 82 sessions of waterboarding were spot on, but that pesky number 83 was just going overboard.

    Those people have no souls.

  27. 27

    […] “intelligence professionals” know goddamn well that waterboarding someone six times a day for a month constitutes torture. What would caution mean here, that you only waterboard him twice a […]

  28. 28
    Montysano says:

    But….but, what if the terrorists were, like, ninjaz and stuff, lasers also, and the only way to make them talk was to bring their mamas into the cell with funny underwear on their heads. What would you do, AG Holder? What WOULD you do?!

  29. 29
    SpotWeld says:

    Does anyone else think the “ticking time bomb” is the dumbest scenario ever.

    The most effective aspect of torture occurs when the subject has no reasonable understanding of when the torture will end.

    We can all (usually) deal with getting a cavity drilled. We know that it will end shortly. We cannot (in general) withstand a prolonged and continuous and apparently unending encounter with a dentist’s drill.

    The time bomb scenario makes torture less effective.

  30. 30

    There’s got to be away to ask the torture fetishists whether they’d have sex with a terrorist in exchange for information. Come on Senator Cornyn, drop your pants or NYC gets vaporized!

  31. 31
    Montysano says:

    @kommrade reproductive vigor:

    Senator Cornyn, drop your pants

    That was uncalled for.

  32. 32
    Cal Gal says:

    Plus you have to assume that anyone who is still around when there’s a ticking nuclear weapon is a suicider, as the Little Idiot called them.

    They WANT to die, and a little waterboarding is going to break them?

  33. 33
    bago says:

    Are you willing to torture to protect america from terror? Perhaps.
    Are you willing to do anal to prevent america from attacks? Nah.

  34. 34
    Xecklothxayyquou Gilchrist says:

    And as I and others say about this dumbshit ticking bomb argument – if you think torturing the guy is going to help, go nuts. Fuck the law! If it’s that important, what does it matter if you’re breaking the law. If you succeed, the jury will forgive you, right?

    All they want is license to torture anytime they want with no possible repercussions, because they’re twisted sadistic fuckwads.

  35. 35
    Mike in NC says:

    Does anyone else think the “ticking time bomb” is the dumbest scenario ever.

    But if Cheney and Limbaugh and Scarborough are OK with it, how can we mere peons object?

  36. 36
    wilfred says:

    But no prosecutions.

    Maybe a little outrage in that direction might help a bit, no?

  37. 37
    Cat G says:

    There’s tons of stuff out there on the toobz that’s been leaking out…stuff like this – it’s worth the read…
    from the Google:

    http://www.commondreams.org/he.....221-04.htm

    Published on Tuesday, December 21, 2004 by the Los Angeles Times
    FBI Agents Complained of Prisoner Abuse, Records Say
    Documents obtained by ACLU show continued reports of mistreatment in Iraq and Cuba
    by Richard Serrano

    WASHINGTON — FBI agents have lodged repeated complaints of physical and mental mistreatment of prisoners held in Iraq and Cuba, saying in reports that military officials have placed lighted cigarettes in detainees’ ears and humiliated Arab captives by wrapping Israeli flags around them, according to new documents released Monday.

  38. 38
    bago says:

    Are you willing to open your ass to violation if the laws you championed violate the ass of the average american?

  39. 39
    Hume's Ghost says:

    “And yes, this is nothing but pure sadism”

    I don’t have my notes with me, but Jane Mayer reported in The Dark Side on a senior CIA agent who flew out (on her own initiative) to Afghanistan to watch KSM get waterboarded. There was no reason for her to be there … she just wanted to watch.

  40. 40
    Ivan Ivanovich Renko says:

    @Xecklothxayyquou Gilchrist: A-motherfucking-men.

    You stop the “ticking time bomb” by pulling a couple of fingernails, you’re pretty much assured of a Presidential pardon at the least.

  41. 41

    These people are nothing more than sick fucks who wanted to hurt people. They probably tortured animals when they were children and I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out a few years from now that some of them become serial killers.

  42. 42
    Polish the Guillotines says:

    @SpotWeld:

    Does anyone else think the “ticking time bomb” is the dumbest scenario ever.

    It’s totally dependent on a chain of implausible coincidences. First, it assumes you already know there’s a ticking bomb somewhere. Second, it assumes you’ve captured someone with enough information to allow you to find the bomb. Third, it assumes the techniques you apply elicit a confession quickly enough to find the bomb. Fourth, it assumes you’re already in possession of enough intelligence to clearly recognize a truthful confession from a life-preserving bullshit confession. Finally, it assumes that 183 life-preserving bullshit confessions don’t end up buying enough time for the fucking bomb to go off.

  43. 43
    Bryan says:

    Regarding what Xecklothxayyquou Gilchrist said, it bears worth repeating.

    I sometimes try this thought experiment with people. Your family member is in a medical emergency, and you cannot wait for an ambulance, so you must drive him to the hospital. In doing so, you will probably openly flout speed limit laws to get there as fast as you can to save this person. If a cop follows you, you will have to deal with it later.

    Now here’s the catch. Because I can think of one hypothetical situation where it would be right to speed, does this mean we should have NO SPEEDING LAWS AT ALL EVER? Because that, after all, is the argument torture apologists make with regard to their b.s. ticking-time-bomb Jack Bauer nonsense.

  44. 44

    The torture thing is such fucking bullshit. I mean really, I seriously doubt that any of the people who are so fucking gung-ho for torture, or their apologistas at the Washington Post, New York Times or NPR (which used the phrase “tough interrogation techniques” when describing the memo release the other day have ever been in severe pain before.

    Six years ago I was hit by a truck while riding my motorcycle. My tibia and fibula were each broken in two places and I had a compound fracture on each bone. Amazingly enough the pain didn’t hit right away, there’s something to be said for being in shock, but when it finally did, when they were trying to straighten out my leg so they could get an X-ray I would have signed *anything* to get a shot of sweet, sweet morphine. Anything. I can just imagine how it would have gone down if the CIA had shown up in the emergency room that day.

    “What, you want me to confess to being a member of an Al Qaeda sleeper cell. OK, sure, can I have some morphine to take the edge of of the fact that two bones are sticking out of my leg. What, you want me to confess being the 20th hi-jacker on 9/11 too. OK, sure, I can do that, can I have some morphine now? What, you want me to confess to killing Jon Benet Ramsey, Nicole Simpson and Ron Goodman? OK, I can do that, can I have some morphine now? Oh, not until I confess to killing Jimmy Hoffa? OK, sure, I did it, I was only eight at the time so it was a little hard, but you’ll never find the body because afterwards I processed it into cocktail weenies which were served up at a V.F.W. picnic. Can I have some morphine now?
    What, you want me to confess to killing RFK and MLK too? Sure, I was only two at the time, so handling the rifle was a bitch, but I did it. Can I have some morphine now? What, you want me to confess to killing JFK too? Yeah, I did it, him and Abraham Lincoln. Both events happened before I was born, but that’s because I built a time-machine to do it, it’s in my basement next to the dryer (it needs a 220 volt outlet). NOW FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN I PLEASE HAVE SOME MORPHINE?”

    If you are in severe enough pain you will say *anything* to make that pain stop. I know that I would have. So aside from the moral aspects behind torture there’s the fact that even if it weren’t completely heinous and inhuman it’s not going to work. Oh, and the goddamned stupid ticking time bomb scenario. OK, let’s say you’re in a scenario like that. You’ve been captured by Al Qaeda and they’re torturing you to find out where you planted a ticking time bomb in their headquarters. Do you think that perhaps you might try to resist by making shit up for long enough for the bomb to go off? And after a certain point why would it matter? Like fuck it, what are your captors going to do when they find out you’ve lied to them? Torture you? Oh wait, they’re already doing that and since they’re sick fucks who like to hurt people you don’t have any guarantee that telling them the truth will make them stop, but if you can hold out long enough you can stick it to the bastards. Sure, that’s a pretty fucking insane way to think, but by the time someone is attaching jumper cables to your balls sanity has left the building.

    Aside from the moral blindness of the torturers and their apologistas there’s also the fact that if you ask them “If you were being tortured by Al Qaeda for a time-sensitive piece of information and knew that if you held out long enough that you could strike a major blow against them would you try to do so by lying to them or would you just roll over and tell them what they wanted to know after the first torture session” they say “well, of course I’d hold out for as long as I could against their torture” but then they expect that if they’re torturing someone from Al Qaeda in this stupid fucking ticking time bomb scenario that he wouldn’t do the same thing. I mean come on, these guys are willing to hijack planes and fly them into buildings or turn themselves into human bombs, what makes anyone think that they’re going to roll over so easily if you pull their fingernails out or waterboard them?

    Again, these people are nothing more than sick, vile fucks who like hurting other people.

  45. 45
    Xecklothxayyquou Gilchrist says:

    @Bryan: Thanks, that’s a great way to illustrate it.

  46. 46
    gwangung says:

    @Polish the Guillotines:

    Totally.

    The ticking time bomb bozos have no protocol for figuring out what they get is gonna defuse the bomb or not. You have to ask them, “What’s your protocol for sifting good info from bad?”

    (And as Bago and others have said, if they mention anything about mosaics, you know they don’t know what they hell they’re talking about—they’re AMATEURS).

  47. 47
    Rick Massimo says:

    @kommrade reproductive vigor:

    Yeah, nobody asks Republicans hypothetical questions like “If raising the top tax rate three per cent meant 10,000 fewer children a year would die, would you do it?”

    Maybe when they objected to that, they’d see the light. Well, they wouldn’t, but maybe more of the general public would.

  48. 48
    gwangung says:

    @Bryan:

    Your family member is in a medical emergency, and you cannot wait for an ambulance, so you must drive him to the hospital. In doing so, you will probably openly flout speed limit laws to get there as fast as you can to save this person. If a cop follows you, you will have to deal with it later.

    Well, unless you’re in Texas….

  49. 49
    Colonel Danite says:

    All I want to say is that I’m proud that Senator Durbin is my senator and glad that Senator Cornyn is not.

  50. 50
    Bryan says:

    @gwangung:

    You know, as I wrote that, I remember reading about that case. Was that cop ever fired? I wish so, but it doesn’t look like it.

    Still, the point still holds up pretty well. Moats never got a ticket. A torturer who saved a major US city would also get off.

  51. 51
    Polish the Guillotines says:

    @gwangung:

    The ticking time bomb bozos have no protocol for figuring out what they get is gonna defuse the bomb or not.

    Yup. But then, that’s not the point of their hypothetical. All they really want is to appeal to emotion to justify sadism.

    Bastards.

  52. 52

    I have a high tolerance to most pain, but not my teeth, you’d play hell separating fact from fiction because I’d say anything and everything and I doubt I could even tell the truth the same way twice.

    Letting me live would be a huge mistake – forever.

    All I want to knowis why these POS aren’t in chains and orange jump suits and I’m not sure that will satisfy me.

  53. 53
    AhabTRuler says:

    Was that cop ever fired?

    He ‘resigned’.

  54. 54
    Thoughtcrime says:

    @linda:

    This type of person:

    For a moment he was alone, then the door opened and O’Brien came in.

    ‘You asked me once,’ said O’Brien, ‘what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.’

    The door opened again. A guard came in, carrying something made of wire, a box or basket of some kind. He set it down on the further table. Because of the position in which O’Brien was standing. Winston could not see what the thing was.

    ‘The worst thing in the world,’ said O’Brien, ‘varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.’

    He had moved a little to one side, so that Winston had a better view of the thing on the table. It was an oblong wire cage with a handle on top for carrying it by. Fixed to the front of it was something that looked like a fencing mask, with the concave side outwards. Although it was three or four metres away from him, he could see that the cage was divided lengthways into two compartments, and that there was some kind of creature in each. They were rats.

    ‘In your case,’ said O’Brien, ‘the worst thing in the world happens to be rats.’

    A sort of premonitory tremor, a fear of he was not certain what, had passed through Winston as soon as he caught his first glimpse of the cage. But at this moment the meaning of the mask-like attachment in front of it suddenly sank into him. His bowels seemed to turn to water.

    ‘You can’t do that!’ he cried out in a high cracked voice. ‘You couldn’t, you couldn’t! It’s impossible.’

    ‘Do you remember,’ said O’Brien, ‘the moment of panic that used to occur in your dreams? There was a wall of blackness in front of you, and a roaring sound in your ears. There was something terrible on the other side of the wall. You knew that you knew what it was, but you dared not drag it into the open. It was the rats that were on the other side of the wall.’

    ‘O’Brien!’ said Winston, making an effort to control his voice. ‘You know this is not necessary. What is it that you want me to do?’

    O’Brien made no direct answer. When he spoke it was in the schoolmasterish manner that he sometimes affected. He looked thoughtfully into the distance, as though he were addressing an audience somewhere behind Winston’s back.

    ‘By itself,’ he said, ‘pain is not always enough. There are occasions when a human being will stand out against pain, even to the point of death. But for everyone there is something unendurable — something that cannot be contemplated. Courage and cowardice are not involved. If you are falling from a height it is not cowardly to clutch at a rope. If you have come up from deep water it is not cowardly to fill your lungs with air. It is merely an instinct which cannot be destroyed. It is the same with the rats. For you, they are unendurable. They are a form of pressure that you cannot withstand, even if you wished to. You will do what is required of you.

    ‘But what is it, what is it? How can I do it if I don’t know what it is?’

    O’Brien picked up the cage and brought it across to the nearer table. He set it down carefully on the baize cloth. Winston could hear the blood singing in his ears. He had the feeling of sitting in utter loneliness. He was in the middle of a great empty plain, a flat desert drenched with sunlight, across which all sounds came to him out of immense distances. Yet the cage with the rats was not two metres away from him. They were enormous rats. They were at the age when a rat’s muzzle grows blunt and fierce and his fur brown instead of grey.

    ‘The rat,’ said O’Brien, still addressing his invisible audience, ‘although a rodent, is carnivorous. You are aware of that. You will have heard of the things that happen in the poor quarters of this town. In some streets a woman dare not leave her baby alone in the house, even for five minutes. The rats are certain to attack it. Within quite a small time they will strip it to the bones. They also attack sick or dying people. They show astonishing intelligence in knowing when a human being is helpless.’

    There was an outburst of squeals from the cage. It seemed to reach Winston from far away. The rats were fighting; they were trying to get at each other through the partition. He heard also a deep groan of despair. That, too, seemed to come from outside himself.

    O’Brien picked up the cage, and, as he did so, pressed something in it. There was a sharp click. Winston made a frantic effort to tear himself loose from the chair. It was hopeless; every part of him, even his head, was held immovably. O’Brien moved the cage nearer. It was less than a metre from Winston’s face.

    ‘I have pressed the first lever,’ said O’Brien. ‘You understand the construction of this cage. The mask will fit over your head, leaving no exit. When I press this other lever, the door of the cage will slide up. These starving brutes will shoot out of it like bullets. Have you ever seen a rat leap through the air? They will leap on to your face and bore straight into it. Sometimes they attack the eyes first. Sometimes they burrow through the cheeks and devour the tongue.’

    The cage was nearer; it was closing in. Winston heard a succession of shrill cries which appeared to be occurring in the air above his head. But he fought furiously against his panic. To think, to think, even with a split second left — to think was the only hope. Suddenly the foul musty odour of the brutes struck his nostrils. There was a violent convulsion of nausea inside him, and he almost lost consciousness. Everything had gone black. For an instant he was insane, a screaming animal. Yet he came out of the blackness clutching an idea. There was one and only one way to save himself. He must interpose another human being, the body of another human being, between himself and the rats.

    The circle of the mask was large enough now to shut out the vision of anything else. The wire door was a couple of hand-spans from his face. The rats knew what was coming now. One of them was leaping up and down, the other, an old scaly grandfather of the sewers, stood up, with his pink hands against the bars, and fiercely sniffed the air. Winston could see the whiskers and the yellow teeth. Again the black panic took hold of him. He was blind, helpless, mindless.

    ‘It was a common punishment in Imperial China,’ said O’Brien as didactically as ever.

    The mask was closing on his face. The wire brushed his cheek. And then — no, it was not relief, only hope, a tiny fragment of hope. Too late, perhaps too late. But he had suddenly understood that in the whole world there was just one person to whom he could transfer his punishment — one body that he could thrust between himself and the rats. And he was shouting frantically, over and over.

    ‘Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!’

  55. 55
    TenguPhule says:

    The CIA used the waterboard “at least 83 times during August 2002” in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.

    These people can’t be allowed to breathe the same air as normal human beings.

    Every last one of them needs to be up against the wall.

  56. 56
    MobiusKlein says:

    If you believe in signing online petitions, do it now petition to impeach 9th circuit judge Bybee

    Only 444 sigs so far.

    what digby said

  57. 57
    Splitting Image says:

    Sure, each individual piece of information that we get through torture is crap, but if we take enormous amounts of such crap from a wide variety of (tortured) sources, carefully sift through it all, and divide it into three categories according to its reliability, we can offer it all to the public at interest rates of 4% for the most secure, 7% for the less secure, and 10% for the least secure. We can have another outside agency insure the most secure group and get a AAA rating for it. Investors will love it and there is no chance of it ever failing because even if one or two investments turn out to be bad, they obviously can’t all be.

    Somebody needs to explain to these guys that a mountain of shit is still shit. An astonishing number of people just don’t seem to get it.

  58. 58
    vernonlee says:

    @Llelldorin:

    shorter Mosaic:

    We lose money on every sale, but we make it up on volume!

  59. 59
    dianne says:

    They are psycopaths and forced our soldiers to be psycopaths, too. That is why, I’m convinced, that there has been such an uptick in suicides for soldiers coming home. They were forced to do things so sick and twisted and so against their morals, that they can’t live with it. Some were probably ok with it – enjoyed it, even. They are now our neighbors.

  60. 60
    Rosali says:

    Here’s the thing- How can the US prosecute KSM or Zubayda when everything they’ve ever said is now rendered questionable because of the torture?

  61. 61

    […] As John Cole says, “There better be a pretty damned long fuse on that ticking time bomb.” […]

  62. 62

    […] Balloon Juice One of the favorite canards of the pro-torture Jack Bauer fetishists, behind only “this resembles fraternity pranks” and “but we do this in SERE,” has always been the “ticking time-bomb” scenario: (snip) […]

  63. 63

    […] Balloon Juice One of the favorite canards of the pro-torture Jack Bauer fetishists, behind only “this resembles fraternity pranks” and “but we do this in SERE,” has always been the “ticking time-bomb” scenario: (snip) […]

  64. 64

    […] lefties have their shorts in a twist about the CIA “torture” memos. The latest is the revelation, contrary to an earlier […]

  65. 65
    Comrade Jake says:

    Looks like this post of Cole’s has attracted the wingnuts. The latest defense is “BUT WE GOT INTEL FROM ALL THIS WATERBOARDING!”

    It’s almost like these people take pride in being ignorant.

  66. 66
    kay says:

    @Rosali:

    How can the US prosecute KSM or Zubayda when everything they’ve ever said is now rendered questionable because of the torture?

    It’s a great point, and the answer is “with great difficulty”. It’s not just that it’s “questionable”. It’s that it can’t come in. They can’t use it in a US court. You can’t bring evidence in that was obtained through illegal acts in to court and sort of sanitize them. That would, in effect, force the court to give the acts a cloak of legality. Courts can’t do that.

    Obama hits on this a lot. He always returns to it when he defends on why we don’t torture. He points to the Bush Administration’s absolutely piss-poor record on convicting terrorists. It’s a practical procedural point, it has an emotional angle because trials are about (to a certain extent) justice for the victims, and conservatives don’t want to go there,

    That’s why they make up fantasy scenarios about “ticking time bombs”. They don’t want to talk about what actually happened.

    They lose on reality. That’s why they’re relying on a tv show. By torturing these people they put them outside the reach of the law. In a weird way, they immunized them.

  67. 67
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    Steve Benen nails it:

    And the KSM example seems to put the practical question to rest altogether. If waterboarding was an effective torture technique, why on earth did officials feel the need to administer it 183 times on one individual? What kind of sadist thinks, “We didn’t get the information we wanted after torturing him 182 times, but maybe once more will do the trick”?

  68. 68
    kay says:

    IMO, these torture-justifying hypotheticals have a purpose, and it has nothing to do with security.
    The minute anti-torture folks are debating the pro-torture folks on where and when torture is justified, the anti-torture forces have lost the argument. It’s just a matter of negotiating terms of torture, from that point on.
    That’s exactly the ground they want to fight this on, and they chose it.
    I don’t know how to fix that. I don’t think the answer is to ignore the hypothetical, so I’m not complaining about raising it.
    My heart sinks when I see it, though. That we’re debating it means we ceded the whole issue, and we’re squabbling over a piece of ground inside the pro-torture arena. It’s a trap. I don’t know how to get out of it.

  69. 69

    […] Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » There Better Be a Helluva Lot of Ticks Left In That Bomb The CIA used the waterboard “at least 83 times during August 2002” in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91. […]

  70. 70
    tofubo says:

    In an interview in London in April 2008, I remind F.B.I. director Robert Mueller of the attacks planned against targets on American soil since 9/11 that his agents have disrupted: for example, a plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and another to wreak mayhem at army recruiting centers and synagogues in and around Torrance, California. These and other homegrown conspiracies were foiled by regular police work. The F.B.I. learned of the Fort Dix plot from a Circuit City store where a technician raised the alarm when asked to copy firearms-training videos, while the Torrance cell was rounded up when cops probed the backgrounds of two of its members after they allegedly robbed a local gas station.

    I ask Mueller: So far as he is aware, have any attacks on America been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through what the administration still calls “enhanced techniques”?

    “I’m really reluctant to answer that,” Mueller says. He pauses, looks at an aide, and then says quietly, declining to elaborate: “I don’t believe that has been the case.”

    http://culture11.com/blogs/the.....d-attacks/

  71. 71

    […] lefties have their shorts in a twist about the CIA “torture” memos. The latest is the revelation, contrary to an earlier report, […]

  72. 72
    Michael says:

    The ticking bomb is what the pardon power should be for. You don’t excuse torture by low level flunkies, it’ll always be abused. Make it become a crucial life or death situation, and force the torturer to do a quick cost-benefit analysis. If he’s right, then he gets a Presidential pardon. If he’s wrong, he gets a jail sentence or a needle.

    By the way – does anybody here want to live down the street from a torturer? I don’t.

    They’re not welcome in my neighborhood, schools, churches, or government.

  73. 73
    grendelkhan says:

    @Thoughtcrime: But what if Winston Smith had had a ticking time bomb, eh? What about that?

    I ask only because this has been used as a defense.

    I’m despairing pretty hard right now.

  74. 74
    grendelkhan says:

    Darn it, I missed the five minute window, but I should have been linking to this comment. Same thread, different bit.

    And what if Winston had been a terrorist, huh? Well, then,

    I think torture for torture’s sake, or simply as a means of repression, is reprehensible. However, torture of a few, if necessary to save countless innocent lives, is an entirely different question.

    And if anyone has the temerity to argue with this position, well, then,

    You are a stunning example of the kind of ethical malaise and confusion that moral relativism produces.

    Take that, objective pro-terrorists!

  75. 75
    Russell Borogove says:

    The ticking bomb is what the pardon power should be for. You don’t excuse torture by low level flunkies, it’ll always be abused. Make it become a crucial life or death situation, and force the torturer to do a quick cost-benefit analysis. If he’s right, then he gets a Presidential pardon. If he’s wrong, he gets a jail sentence or a needle.

    I’ve been saying this for a couple of years now. If I were an agent doing interrogations, and I knew there was a ticking time bomb situation*, I’d like to think I could be man enough to face a prison term to get the information. Hell, facing the prison term would be easier for me than doing the ‘enhanced interrogation’ itself. If I’m right, I save hundreds or thousands of lives. If I’m wrong, I do time.

    * Which, just for the record, never happens outside of movies.

  76. 76
    Thoughtcrime says:

    @grendelkhan:

    An obvious straw man, which is what the Conservatives always fall back on. They knew none of these detainees had any knowledge of “ticking time bombs”.

    I can refer you to some more pleasant words from O’Brien to Winston:

    “Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

  77. 77
    Svensker says:

    @grendelkhan:

    Darn it, I missed the five minute window, but I should have been linking to this comment. Same thread, different bit.

    Oh, God, I went over and read that thread. And to think I used to be a Republican. Oh God.

  78. 78
    Jack D. Ripper says:

    “Waterboarding”? Big Fucking Deal. You pussies be all over this shit, after they scrape Mommy & Daddy off the walls at the Train Station. Or if your Liberal Sodomite Boyfriend, got his Pecker Blown off. Now, go put a foriegn object, up your Butt, and STFU. God Bless, you little faggotts……….

  79. 79
    marlene keller says:

    Where’s the outrage amongst the general populace, which should have been elicted by the first whiff of news of the United States of America becoming torturers, especially as we have now been shown absolute proof that fascist pig nazis Bush & Cheney did give orders to torture human beings, for the sake of torture, to willing minions who so thoroughly enjoyed carrying those orders out?

    And where’s Obama’s head to have made a decision not to prosecute these freaks of nature that were responsible for both the orders being given to torture and for following the orders?

    Clearly the entire Bush administration was made up of the lowest of the low — bottom feeders who mainline evil for breakfast on a daily basis. This was clear to anyone with so much as half a brain from day one following Bush’s coup d’ etat and we have waited for a very long time to see these criminals who occupied the White House for 8 years held to account for the many atrocities they committed during that time.

    Now that the truth is now surfacing — as truth always does sooner or later — in irrefutable reports that would have saved a lot of people a lot of pain as well as a lot of lives had there been even one journalist with the moral values & and ethical standards all journalists should possess simply been willing to report at the time — we should all demand that those responsible for the crimes involving torture now be charged, prosecuted, and sentenced in accordance with the law of the land just like any & all other citizens would be for committing such crimes.

  80. 80
    mfrancis says:

    When will you dummies get it. The majority of Americans, me included, after years of hate all Americans propoganda and kill everyone whose not muslem tactics, well we just don’t care. I don’t care who was waterboarded how many times for whatever reason. Period. I would waterboard them myself if I could. They better be damn happy I’m no in charge because firs I would cut of any American money and aid to that entire region of the world and after letting them starve for awhile I would solve our nuclear arsenal storage problem by turning the entire middle east and north africa into pretty pretty glass.

  81. 81
    vt says:

    Any behavior can be justified. Bush used them all but failed to note that like torture, other violations of the constitution were justified by a fear campaign to wage a “War on terrorism” Any war is terrorism. This behavior put the USA in the same place as other governments who use inhuman methods to gain goals. Our Govt screams about human rights while violating them. When will our citizens take control of what is going on. It is supposed to be Govt by the PEOPLE not by scheming politicians.

  82. 82
    Peter_in_Kobe says:

    @Llelldorin:
    It worked with those nifty mortgage-backed securities. Why not apply the same logic to information collection and analysis? This is how it is done. You gather a bunch of worthless information, slice and dice it, pay some agency to certify it triple A, and then sell it the public as risk free! What could go wrong?

  83. 83
    RememberNovember says:

    If there is no accountability, then at least I hope to God above that anybody associated with this abusive practice becomes persona non grata. I know better yet let’s make them wear scarlet “T’s. Extra fitted for Conservative sit on your ass shoot your friend in the face love- handles, and now in spring polo shirt styles!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] lefties have their shorts in a twist about the CIA “torture” memos. The latest is the revelation, contrary to an earlier report, […]

  2. […] Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » There Better Be a Helluva Lot of Ticks Left In That Bomb The CIA used the waterboard “at least 83 times during August 2002” in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91. […]

  3. […] lefties have their shorts in a twist about the CIA “torture” memos. The latest is the revelation, contrary to an earlier […]

  4. […] Balloon Juice One of the favorite canards of the pro-torture Jack Bauer fetishists, behind only “this resembles fraternity pranks” and “but we do this in SERE,” has always been the “ticking time-bomb” scenario: (snip) […]

  5. […] Balloon Juice One of the favorite canards of the pro-torture Jack Bauer fetishists, behind only “this resembles fraternity pranks” and “but we do this in SERE,” has always been the “ticking time-bomb” scenario: (snip) […]

  6. […] As John Cole says, “There better be a pretty damned long fuse on that ticking time bomb.” […]

  7. […] “intelligence professionals” know goddamn well that waterboarding someone six times a day for a month constitutes torture. What would caution mean here, that you only waterboard him twice a […]

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