Zero Dark Thirty Unleashes the Waterboarding Art


Finally finished watching Zero Dark Thirty. This movie has been generating uproars in the upper echelons of the governance regime and brought the whole torture memo and black site discussion into revival again.

The sadistic side of my personality kind of enjoyed the waterboarding torture scenes but it shakes you from within to see that such an interrogation program has been brought into play to break the silence. I am in no way judging its efficacy as I had to have some insight into how much can you resist such an interrogation and how do you know that the confessions resulting from this had any veracity or is it just concoction of several innuendos which is made by the person to evade such an interrogation.

I started my research on resistance to interrogation while waterboarding which is undoubtedly regarded as the harshest of all six secret interrogation techniques used by C.I.A.

In U.S.A military people are trained hardly in order to make them resilient enough to survive and evade difficult conditions of interrogation if captured by enemy. The whole program is a set of course undertaken in name of SERE by military ( Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape ). The same psychologists who have framed the course curriculum for SERE are consulted over and over again by C.I.A for assistance in interrogating enemy combatants captured in their Black Sites abroad. Read this New Yorker article for context in how they can be made use of at Guantanamo Bay

How is it to be Waterboarded ?

Some former C.I.A chiefs disagree with the current interrogation pro forma. They are of the view that patient approach of questioning is more fruitful in the long run than torturing your subjects. Others have the view that when the subject is going through the most painful torture available, he would definitely break down on knees to give you information you need. Christopher Hitchens, the famous british intellectual voluntarily got himself subjected to this torture and broke within seconds. The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law. I am attaching his vanity fair video so that the reader gets acquainted with how is it done.

What are “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” ?

The CIA sources described a list of six “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:

1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.

2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.

3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

6. Water Boarding: 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.

References : Outsourcing Torture, Endgame on Torture – Time to call the bluff, History of an Interrogation Technique


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