Kondracke: Waterboarding "doesn't result in any lasting damage"

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

In a Fox News "All-Star" panel discussion, Morton Kondracke said of the interrogation technique known as waterboarding, "I'm sure it feels like torture, you know, it doesn't result in any lasting damage, but it feels like torture." But a physician who heads a program for torture survivors told a Senate committee that techniques such as waterboarding "are intended to break the prisoners down, to terrify them and cause harm to their psyche, and in so doing result in lasting harmful health consequences." He also said: "There is a real risk of death from actually drowning or suffering a heart attack or damage to the lungs."

During the "All-Star" panel segment of the October 29 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Roll Call executive editor Morton M. Kondracke, referring to the interrogation technique known as waterboarding, stated, "I'm sure it feels like torture, you know, it doesn't result in any lasting damage, but it feels like torture." However, as Media Matters for America has noted, Dr. Allen S. Keller, M.D., director of the Bellevue Hospital Center/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture, wrote in Senate testimony about the "long-term health consequences" of waterboarding. In written testimony dated September 25 to a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on interrogation techniques, Keller stated, "To think that abusive methods, including the enhanced interrogation techniques [in which Keller included waterboarding], are harmless psychological ploys is contradictory to well established medical knowledge and clinical experience. These methods are intended to break the prisoners down, to terrify them and cause harm to their psyche, and in so doing result in lasting harmful health consequences." He said of waterboarding specifically, "Long term effects include panic attacks, depression and PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder]," and said it poses a "real risk of death."

Kondracke made this assertion during a discussion about attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey's refusal, at his October 18 Senate confirmation hearing, to say whether waterboarding amounted to torture. When Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked Mukasey, "So is waterboarding constitutional?" Mukasey responded, "I don't know what's involved in the technique. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional." Whitehouse pressed Mukasey, describing the technique as the "practice of putting someone in a reclining position, strapping them down, putting a cloth over their faces, and pouring water over the cloth to simulate the feeling of drowning." Mukasey responded by again stating that "if it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional."

During the Special Report segment, Fox News Washington managing editor and panel moderator Brit Hume also described the technique: "You're on your back ... it's like you're on a seesaw ... You've got a wet cloth on your face, and you're tipped so that your feet are up and your head is down. And you've got a wet cloth on your head, and water is being poured on it. You're safe, you're not going to drown, but it feels for all the world like you are drowning, and it is apparently very, very frightening." Contrary to Hume's assertion that a person is "safe" and "not going to drown" during waterboarding, Keller has asserted that there are also immediate physical risks associated with waterboarding, including "actually drowning or suffering a heart attack or damage to the lungs."

On the topic of waterboarding, Keller wrote:

Water-boarding or mock drowning, where a prisoner is bound to an inclined board and water is poured over their face, inducing a terrifying fear of drowning clearly can result in immediate and long-term health consequences. As the prisoner gags and chokes, the terror of imminent death is pervasive, with all of the physiologic and psychological responses expected, including an intense stress response, manifested by tachycardia, rapid heart beat and gasping for breath. There is a real risk of death from actually drowning or suffering a heart attack or damage to the lungs from inhalation of water. Long term effects include panic attacks, depression and PTSD. I remind you of the patient I described earlier who would panic and gasp for breath whenever it rained even years after his abuse.

In his testimony, Keller stated that his "perspective ... is based on more than 15 years of experience as a doctor in evaluating and caring for victims of torture and mistreatment from around the world, and studying the health consequences of such trauma."

From the October 29 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: Well, Mort, does this -- Mukasey said, look, he -- if it's torture he's against it, if it's unconstitutional he couldn't support it. But he didn't say whether he thought it was torture. And I suppose they want him to, and they want him to say he wouldn't countenance it as attorney general. What is likely to be the outcome here?

KONDRACKE: Well, the truth is that I don't know, because Mukasey is going to come up with his written answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee as early as tomorrow, and we'll have some idea as to whether he's got a better explanation than the runaround that he gave the committee. I mean, he did evade the question, and they couldn't pin him down, and they said that they were dissatisfied with him. And this is all about waterboarding, of course. And it's --

HUME: Let's stop for a minute --

KONDRACKE: Yeah.

HUME: -- and describe waterboarding here --

KONDRACKE: Waterboarding --

HUME: You're on your back --

KONDRACKE: Right.

HUME: -- it's like you're on a seesaw --

KONDRACKE: Put a cloth on your head --

HUME: You've got a wet cloth on your face, and you're tipped so that your feet are up and your head is down. And you've got a wet cloth on your head, and water is being poured on it. You're safe, you're not going to drown, but it feels for all the world like you are drowning, and it is apparently very, very frightening.

KONDRACKE: Right. And apparently, everybody breaks. No one has -- no one on record has ever gone through this who didn't break as a result of it. And look, it -- it is -- I'm sure it feels like torture, you know, it doesn't result in any lasting damage, but it feels like torture. The question -- it's never -- it's not illegal.

HUME: It is used, by the way, isn't it, by our -- on our own servicemen.

KONDRACKE: Yeah, pilots, pilots, Special Forces trainees, those people who might be captured are routinely trained under this with this technique.

HUME: So we do it to our own people.

KONDRACKE: Yeah, we do it to our own people.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Interrogation
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Mort Kondracke
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
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