CIA Was Right: Waterboarding Works

A defense of "enhanced interrogation."

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

To read Larry Mendte’s criticism of torture, as depicted in the new Senate report, click here.

To say the killing of Osama bin Laden created a patriotic euphoria would be a gross understatement. Spontaneous celebrations broke out across the nation. The image of thousands chanting “U-S-A” from Ground Zero was simply awe-inspiring. It was a great day for America.

According to CIA officials, that achievement was made possible in large part because their enhanced interrogation methods extracted information about the al-Qaeda courier who led the U.S. to bin Laden. If that’s not the definition of “success,” nothing is.

Yet, despite that, the United States is still not fully committed to winning the War on Terror, since we continue to debate whether waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” should be used on terrorists hell-bent on destroying us.

Front and center is the newly-released report from U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats —loaded with inaccuracies — blasting the CIA for its handling of terrorists. Such criticism is akin putting up a sign saying, “Welcome, al-Qaeda! How can we make your day more pleasant?”

First things first. Because the report is so partisan, its credibility is extremely suspect. (According to Senator Susan Collins, no interviews of CIA officials were even conducted — how is that possible?) However, if the CIA lied to Congress or the Bush White House, that is unacceptable and those individuals should be held accountable.

The infinitely more important issues are A) Do these techniques work, and B) Should we be using them? Despite denials by partisan Democrats that waterboarding, rectal rehydration (hell, some Americans pay big bucks to have that done at a spa) and other techniques are effective, the truth is that they worked better than we could have hoped, as numerous officials attest. The fact that we have not been attacked since 9/11 is also a tribute to the program’s success.

If we don’t use these enhanced methods, then what? Should we hope that al-Qaeda has a change of heart? Or pray that a terrorist sees the light of his own free will?

Debating whether we should be using aggressive interrogation tactics misses the big picture. We are at war. And when at war, you’re supposed to pull out all stops until victory is achieved. But when you fight not to lose (Vietnam, Iraq), the enemy becomes emboldened, and ultimately victorious.

Bin Laden’s death notwithstanding, the threat against the West remains high. Yet we continue to needlessly compromise our security in the name of political correctness.

And both parties are to blame.

President Obama discontinued waterboarding in 2009, and Senate Democrats, proud to be seen as PC police, think singing Kumbaya with the enemy will make everything okay.

Too many in the GOP are simply criticizing the release of the report, stopping short of endorsing the CIA’s interrogation methods, and not demanding that waterboarding be reinstated.

And it was Republican John McCain who offered an Amendment prohibiting the U.S. from engaging in humiliating or “degrading” treatment of captured terrorists.

As a result, the military has banned such practices as nudity, mock executions and hooding, in large part because McCain disagrees with the assertion that we should use every means necessary to extract information that could save lives.

In other words, we’re more concerned with ensuring the dignity and well-being of al-Qaeda than in preventing another attack and bringing those to justice for their past atrocities. How nice.

Waterboarding is when water is poured over the face of an enemy combatant, simulating the feeling of drowning. If you’re waiting for the rest of the description, you’ll be sorely disappointed, because that’s it. Don’t misunderstand—it’s very effective, but derives its success due to psychological stress rather than physical harm. For the most part, no one gets hurt, and no one dies.

If our goal is to ensure that terrorists feel comfortable, then we were right to ban waterboarding. However, if we want to be seriously engaged in a global war against those who aggressively advocate our destruction, maybe we should reconsider how we handle detainees, since al-Qaeda prisoners are also afforded fantastic medical care (better than that of many Americans), food reflective of their ethnicity, and prayer time, to name just a few benefits.

Maybe we should also ask the survivors and families of victims of the 9/11 massacre, the Madrid train and London subway bombings, and a host of other attacks if they care whether a prisoner, with possible knowledge of an impending attack, has some water poured on his face, or feels humiliated.

Cutting through the PC, does the average American or European really believe such interrogation methods should be banned, putting the prisoner’s well-being ahead of their own? Are they really willing to jeopardize their children’s future because a combatant’s “dignity” is affected?

Get real.

Just look at the numerous videos of Americans, both civilians and military, being decapitated, dragged through the streets, burned, dismembered and hung from bridges. It’s abundantly clear we’re engaging an enemy who doesn’t feel compelled to reciprocate the care we show our prisoners.

Because we coddle prisoners, refuse to profile, won’t construct a border wall, and tie our troops’ hands behind their backs because of PC politics, we have become a paper tiger. And the sigh of despair you hear? That’s the silent majority of Europeans who are too scared to publicly support anti-PC measures because their cultures have become the embodiment of appeasement. They used to nod in admiration that at least one country still had the guts to take it to the enemy. Sadly, that is no longer the case.

Just as Americans called for domestic drilling after gas hit $4 per gallon, there will undoubtedly be demands to bring back enhanced interrogation techniques — but only after the next attack.

But by then, it will be too late, and we will have personified the adage “we have met the enemy, and it is us.”

Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. He can be reached at