Liz Cheney Claims Waterboading Isn’t Torture Because Similar Tactics Were Used In SERE Training

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"Liz Cheney Claims Waterboading Isn’t Torture Because Similar Tactics Were Used In SERE Training"

On MSNBC this afternoon, former State Department official Liz Cheney, who is the daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, defended the infamous Bush-era torture memos that were recently released by the Obama administration. “The tactics are not torture, we did not torture,” said Cheney.

To support her claim that the brutal techniques, such as waterboarding, that were authorized by the memos are not torture, Cheney invoked the common conservative argument that the techniques were derived from special forces training called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Evasion (SERE):

O’DONNELL: Well Liz, we’ll get to that argument in a minute, about whether the means justify the ends, whether torture justifies itself…

CHENEY: Well, it wasn’t torture, so that’s not the right way to lay out the argument.

O’DONNELL: Ok.

CHENEY: Everything that was done in this program, as has been laid out and described before, are tactics that our own people go through in SERE training.

Later in the interview, Cheney insisted that “We did not torture our own people. These techniques are not torture.” Watch it:

As Media Matters noted when Fox News’ Jim Angle pushed the same argument, the Bush Justice Department acknowledged in one of the torture memos that waterboarding detainees is “a very different situation” from what went on in SERE training:

Individuals undergoing SERE training are obviously in a very different situation from detainees undergoing interrogation; SERE trainees know it is part of a training program, not a real-life interrogation regime, they presumably know it will last only a short time, and they presumably have assurances that they will not be significantly harmed by the training.

On Monday, Time’s Michael Scherer and Bobby Ghosh noted that a CIA inspector general report had found that the waterboarding used on detainees “was significantly different from that used in the SERE program“:

However, the IG investigation found that the waterboarding technique used on the CIA’s detainees was significantly different from that used in the SERE program: most notably, the Agency’s interrogators used much larger volumes of water.

The IG also cites the CIA’s Office of Medical Services (OMS) in saying that the “the expertise of the SERE psychologists/interrogators … was probably misrepresented.” The IG concluded: “Consequently, according to OMS, there was no a priori reason to believe that applying the waterboard with the frequency and intensity with which it was used … was either efficacious or medically safe.” In fact, the IG report also hints that the CIA didn’t consult the OMS on waterboarding until quite late: “OMS was neither consulted nor involved in the initial analysis of the risk and benefits of [enhanced interrogation techniques].”

Finally, there is no credible way that Cheney can claim that trainees undergoing waterboarding during SERE training had it applied to them with “the frequency and intensity with which it was used” on detainees. As Marcy Wheeler pointed out, one of the released memos revealed that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.

Transcript:

O’DONNELL: Well Liz, we’ll get to that argument in a minute, about whether the means justify the ends, whether torture justifies itself…

CHENEY: Well, it wasn’t torture, so that’s not the right way to lay out the argument.

O’DONNELL: Ok.

CHENEY: Everything that was done in this program, as has been laid out and described before, are tactics that our own people go through in SERE training.

O’DONNELL: I want…

CHENEY: And that our own people have gone through for many years, so it’s really does a fundamental disservice to those professionals who are conducting this very effective program and to those people who approved the program in order to keep this nation safe and prevent an attack through the program, to call it torture.

[...]

CHENEY: What I’m saying is that there were a series of tactics, a series of techniques that had all been done to our own people. We did not torture our own people. These techniques are not torture. The memos laid out…

O’DONNELL: Did we torture other people?

CHENEY: The memos, no.

O’DONNELL: You just said we don’t torture our own people.

CHENEY: Therefore the tactics are not torture, we did not torture. The memos lay out the extent of exactly how far we could go before it would become torture because it was very important that we not cross that line into torture.

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