We'll never know if waterboarding worked

We’ll probably never know the real value of coercive techniques. Surely some accurate information came from their use. Some prisoners were interrogated almost entirely with these techniques, so there was no “control,” for comparison’s sake — no way to know what we’d have gotten without mistreating detainees.

The only way we could have a rational assessment of the costs and benefits of enhanced interrogation techniques is with a complete declassification of all the interrogation reports, including the leads that coercive questioning produced. If a great many of these leads were distracting dead-ends, perhaps produced by a detainee’s desire to temporarily end his suffering, that would paint a dim picture of their utility. The risks of such a declassification obviously outweigh the benefits of settling the waterboarding debate…

There’s also evidence coming to light that waterboarding isn’t the “open sesame” some would have us believe. According to Marc Thiessen, a Bush speechwriter, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed counted the seconds he was being waterboarded on his fingers, determining that his interrogators were limited to 40 seconds of controlled drowning at a time. Thiessen’s point was that limiting waterboarding, which was crucial to the administration’s claim that it wasn’t torture, also made it ineffective.

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