In February, CIA Director Michael Hayden confirmed that his agency used waterboarding on three al Qaeda suspects. But revelations from a former detainee in a hearing yesterday raise questions as to whether the administration has been playing word games with its definition of “waterboarding.”
Murat Kurnaz, “freed from Guantanamo in 2006 after a personal plea from German Chancellor Angela Merkel,” detailed the gross abuses he underwent in U.S. custody yesterday. Kurnaz said he was subjected to “water treatment” which involved a “strong punch” that forced him to inhale water. Asked if this was waterboarding, Kurnaz said “water treatment” is different:
ROHRABACHER: You suggest that you were waterboarded in your captivity. Is that correct?
KURNAZ: No, it’s not waterboarding. It’s called “water treatment.” There was a bucket of water.
ROHRABACHER: Was a cloth put over your face and you were put on a board?
KURNAZ: There was a bucket of water. And they stick my head in it and at the same time, punch me into my stomach.
Rohrabacher responded: “The CIA is claiming that only three people have been waterboarded. And this may be a loophole that they’re suggesting that’s not ‘waterboarding.'” Watch it:
Kurnaz said that he was subject to “water treatment” once but that other detainees reported similar treatment. “There was prisoners who told me the same thing was happening to them,” he said.
Yesterday’s Justice Department Inspector General report also documents a 2004 interrogation in Iraq where interrogators “put water down” a detainee’s throat to mimic “the sensation that he was drowning.” The report says this is not “waterboarding,” but “this rough technique was part of an effort to intimidate the detainees and increase their feelings of helplessness.”
Kurnaz’s testimony suggests that, contrary to the administration line, more than three detainees have been subject to water torture. “It seems that we have a new definition,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) in the hearing. “If you were wedded to the language of waterboarding, now we have new language called ‘water treatment,’ which may bear on being torture as well.”