Attorney General

Were John Yoo and Jay Bybee Duped into Approving Waterboarding?

  • Print

CIA medical personnel later objected to a description of the safety of waterboarding contained in a report sent to Justice Department lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee.

The suspect report formed the basis for a legal memo approving waterboarding of terrorism suspects, the Washington Independent reports.

The Office of Medical Services criticized the review of waterboarding, saying its reported sophistication was “exaggerated” and the power of the technique was “appreciably overstated,” the Washington Post reports. OMS personnel also expressed concern that a detainee subjected to waterboarding could simply give up and allow his airways to fill with water, causing a lack of consciousness, the Post says.

The objections by OMS were outlined in a footnote contained in a newly released 2004 CIA document, the Washington Independent says. “It’s almost enough to generate sympathy for Jay Bybee and John Yoo,” the Independent says.

Yoo was the primary author of an August 2002 legal opinion (PDF), later withdrawn, that authorized waterboarding and techniques that cause severe mental pain, as long as they don’t cause lasting harm. Bybee, now a federal appeals judge, signed the memo. Yoo is now a law professor at the University of California Berkeley’s Boalt Hall law school.

The Independent says the 2002 memo repeatedly referred to assurances about how waterboarding works. The memo says the water should be applied “in a controlled manner,” and refers to CIA representations that “this procedure triggers an automatic physiological sensation of drowning that the individual cannot control even though he may be aware that he is in fact not drowning.”

Hat tip to Legal Pad.

Related coverage: “Lawyers Helped Set Detainee Routine in Painstaking Detail”

Prior coverage: DOJ Memo Allowed Severe, But Short-Term, Mental Pain in Interrogations

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.