Waterboarding: The individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual's feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, air flow is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth. This causes an increase in carbon dioxide level in the individual's blood. This increase in the carbon dioxide level stimulates increased effort to breathe. This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of “suffocation and incipient panic,” i.e., the perception of drowning.
This description is contained in a secret Bush administration memo approving the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay and secret prisons overseas after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
President Barack Obama, facing a court deadline, released four such memos on Thursday. But he ruled out the prosecution of agents who “carried out their duties relying in good faith” on the Justice Department's advice that the interrogation techniques did not amount to torture.
“I have already ended the techniques described in the memos,” Obama said. “The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world.... We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security.”
But the American Civil Liberties Union said: “There can be no more excuses for putting off criminal investigations of officials who authorised torture, lawyers who justified it and interrogators who broke the law.”
The administration also said it would try to shield CIA employees from “any international or foreign tribunal,” Reuters reported.
A judge in Spain is considering an investigation against six Bush administration officials.
Besides waterboarding, techniques approved in the memos included sleep deprivation for up to a week and putting an insect into a small box where a prisoner afraid of insects was confined.
“As we understand it, you plan to inform (suspect Abu) Zubaydah that you are going to place a stinging insect into the box, but you will actually place a harmless insect in the box, such as a caterpillar,” one memo says. This technique apparently was not used.
Another practice was “walling,” or slamming a suspect against a special wall that produced a loud sound, suggesting more serious injuries than may have been actually caused.