Fox News correspondent on his on-air "waterboarding": "a pretty efficient mechanism to get someone to talk and then still have them alive and healthy within minutes"
Research ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN
Fox News' Steve Harrigan underwent what he described as three "phase[s]" of the controversial interrogation technique known as "waterboarding," on camera, concluding that the technique is "a pretty efficient mechanism to get someone to talk and then still have them alive and healthy within minutes." Psychologists have asserted that "such forms of near-asphyxiation" can lead to long-term psychological damage.
On the November 3 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan underwent what he described as three "phase[s]" of the controversial interrogation technique known as "waterboarding," on camera, concluding that the technique is "a pretty efficient mechanism to get someone to talk and then still have them alive and healthy within minutes." Harrigan stated that his report on waterboarding was meant to show viewers "what exactly it is," whether it is "torture," and if "the U.S. [should] use it."
During his demonstration, Harrigan, clad in an orange jumpsuit, was apparently put through three different procedures by three men dressed entirely in black, complete with black ski masks. The first technique to which Harrigan was apparently subjected involved his being handcuffed while lying in a pool, with two "interrogat[ors] applying pressure to Harrigan's stomach and chest, while the third "interrogat[or]" poured water over Harrigan's face.
The second "phase" was similar, though this time Harrigan's mouth was covered with what appeared to be a wet towel; one "interrogat[or]" poured water over Harrigan's nose. The final procedure involved water being dripped into Harrigan's nose while cellophane wrap covered his mouth. Harrigan alternated between claiming that the waterboarding was "really scary" and not "that bad" while being subjected to the different "phase[s]." According to ABC News, "former and current intelligence officers and supervisors" have claimed that prisoners are subjected to a waterboarding technique similar to the third technique Harrigan demonstrated:
The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.
According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.
ABC News further noted, that intelligence officials believed "that a confession obtained this way is an unreliable tool" because many may confess to anything in order for the technique to stop. Army regulations prohibit the use of waterboarding, but the CIA does not.
Reflecting on his experience, Harrigan remarked, "[Y]ou really learn you can crack pretty quickly. ... I mean, they took me to the brink, where I was ready to submit, tell them anything within minutes, and then, just minutes later, I was standing by the side of that pool feeling fine." Harrigan concluded that "as far as torture goes, at least in this controlled experiment, to me, this seemed like a pretty efficient mechanism to get someone to talk and then still have them alive and healthy within minutes." However, psychologists, such as Dr. Allen S. Keller, director of the Bellevue Hospital Center/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture reportedly disagreed: According to The New Yorker magazine, Keller asserted that "such forms of near-asphyxiation," like waterboarding, could indeed lead to long-term psychological damage:
Some victims were still traumatized years later, he said. One patient couldn't take showers, and panicked when it rained. "The fear of being killed is a terrifying experience," he said.
From the November 3 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta van Susteren:
VAN SUSTEREN: Waterboarding -- you heard me right. It's waterboarding, a notorious interrogation technique used to crack prisoners and get them talking. But what exactly is waterboarding? Fox's own Steve Harrigan wanted to find out. He joins us from New York. Steve, what is this?
HARRIGAN: Greta, so many people have been talking about waterboarding over the past couple of weeks. Is it torture? Should the U.S. use it? We left those questions on the side and just really tried to look at what exactly it is. Working with [retired U.S. Army] Major Bob Bevelacqua and two of his colleagues, here's what we found.
[begin video tape]
So you pressed down here, and then I couldn't catch a breath and I felt water fill my nose and my mouth, and within, like, three seconds, I wanted out of there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We wanted to give you that sensation of drowning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now the only place he can breathe is through his nose, and we're going to fill that with water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready to talk?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't pour anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
HARRIGAN: One was not too bad. Two was a little scary. I don't know how many numbers these guys got, but we'll see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a lot.
HARRIGAN: All right.
I'm starting not to like these guys in the black masks. I expect I'll tap out pretty soon here because I'm scared.
No, this isn't that bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You OK, Steve?
HARRIGAN: Yeah, the -- when you try and take a breath in, the cellophane goes in your mouth, and then it's lights out.
[end video tape]
HARRIGAN: Yeah, phase 3 is when they put that Saran wrap over your mouth; it's really scary. And the interrogators said it's more about fear than pain. Just seeing them tear that Saran wrap off when they're about to put it over your face, it really gets you scared. And you can imagine people who go through this day-in, day-out, you really learn you can crack pretty quickly.
VAN SUSTEREN: Yeah, what I was reading, Steve, is that -- it seems that there's sort of a time when most people crack; how much they can endure. What's sort of how -- you know, what's the longest anyone can endure these things?
HARRIGAN: Greta, there's no hard science on this. Some people say a couple minutes is about as long as you go. But the thing that really impressed me was just how quickly you can recover. I mean, they took me to the brink, where I was ready to submit, tell them anything within minutes, and then, just minutes later, I was standing by the side of that pool feeling fine. So, as far as torture goes, at least in this controlled experiment, to me, this seemed like a pretty efficient mechanism to get someone to talk and then still have them alive and healthy within minutes.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Steve. Well, I'm glad this was your project and not mine. Fascinating. Thank you, Steve.