Both said they were subjected to another type of suffocation-inducing water abuse that, like waterboarding, is a form of torture. Each was forced, separately, to lie in plastic sheeting, hooded, sometimes while naked, while guards poured icy cold water all over them, including over their nose and mouth, to the point where they felt they would suffocate. The men said doctors were present during both types of water torture, raising issues of medical ethics.
Moreover, Rodriguez doesn't mention the number of times waterboarding was used on each detainee he acknowledges -- 183 on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, at least 83 on Abu Zubaydah, and twice on Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri -- and the sensation of near death the practice produces.
Rodriguez also claims that "no one was bloodied or beaten in the enhanced interrogation program," ignoring that some of the longest-lasting effects of torture are psychological. But many detainees others and we have interviewed, including the Libyans, did describe being beaten in the program, especially during transfer procedures. And some were sent to other countries by the CIA with the knowledge and understanding that they would be beaten and tortured there.
These are just a few of the details we know about the CIA program. Unfortunately, there is still a lot we do not know. We still don't know, for example, all the names of those held as part of the program, how long they were detained, when they were released, and what happened to them. The details that are known have been pieced together by journalists and human rights workers tracking down former detainees, filing Freedom of Information Act requests, and litigating.
The U.S. government has gone to great lengths to keep information about the program secret. The Justice Department refused to prosecute Rodriguez for destruction of evidence -- those 92 videotapes depicting waterboarding -- or any other senior U.S. official or CIA operative involved in the abuse for that matter, despite a four-year investigation. (Rodriguez was lightly reprimanded by the CIA.)
Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee recently produced a report -- more than 6,000 pages long -- that provides the most comprehensive information about the CIA's torture program. Congress has yet to make the report public, though the Senate Intelligence Committee chair, Dianne Feinstein, said it "uncovers startling details" about the program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight. She has also said it concludes that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective way to gain intelligence and did not lead to finding bin Laden. Rodriguez, who had left the CIA years before the bin Laden operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, asserts exactly the opposite, yet evidence that rebuts his claims remains classified.
This brings us to maybe the most frustrating thing about Rodriguez's comments and this whole debate about Zero Dark Thirty. We would not even be having this debate, and this film probably would not have even been made in the way it was, had the U.S. government not gone to such great lengths over the past 11 years to cover up the tracks of its crimes and bury the facts. Make no mistake about it: These allegations amount to crimes.
What the United States is alleged to have done in its name is torture -- practices prohibited by the Convention Against Torture, ratified by the United States and 152 other countries, and U.S. law under the Anti-Torture Act. It is also prohibited during times of war by the Geneva Conventions, again ratified by the United States and virtually every other country. The U.S. government's authorization of torture during George W. Bush's administration violated U.S. law and should be prosecuted.
It is deeply disappointing that President Barack Obama and the Justice Department have ignored these calls for sanction. In the absence of accountability, however, the least the United States should do is publicly acknowledge and explain the reasons that the use of torture was wrong and counterproductive.
The Senate Intelligence Committee report appears to be an opportunity to do just that. Calling the use of enhanced interrogation techniques a "terrible mistake," Feinstein said, "I also believe this report will settle the debate once and for all over whether our nation should ever employ coercive interrogation techniques." Yet while the report remains classified, available to just a handful of senators, CIA insiders like Rodriguez are free to say what they please, and unfortunately, the debate rages on.