PolitiFact Bias co-editor Jeff D. caught PolitiFact continuing its tendency to misinform its readers about waterboarding in a Jan 29, 2017 tweet:
PolitiFact's claim was untrue, as I demonstrated in a May 30, 2016 article at Zebra Fact Check, "Torture narrative trumps facts at PolitiFact."Scientific research shows that waterboarding, which @POTUS has supported, doesn't work: https://t.co/4pm2EdgbzX— PolitiFact (@PolitiFact) January 28, 2017
Though PolitiFact claims scientific research shows waterboarding doesn't work, the only "scientific evidence in the linked article concerns the related conditions of hypoxia (low oxygen) and hypercapnia (excess carbon dioxide). PolitiFact reasoned that because science shows that hypoxia and hypercapnia inhibit memory, therefore waterboarding would not work as a means of gaining meaningful intelligence.
The obvious problem with that line of evidence?
Waterboarding as practiced by the CIA takes mere seconds. Journalist Christopher Hitchens had himself waterboarded and broke, saying he would tell whatever he knew, after about 18 seconds. Memos released by the Obama administration revealed that a continuous waterboarding treatment could last a maximum 40 seconds.
Prisoners could be subjected to waterboarding during one 30 day period
Maximum five treatment days per 30 days
Maximum two waterboarding sessions per treatment day
Max 2 hours per session (the length of time the prisoner is strapped down)
Maximum 40 seconds of continuous water application
Maximum six water applications over 10 seconds long per session
Maximum 240 seconds (four minutes) of waterboarding per session from applications over 10 seconds long
Maximum total of 12 minutes of treatment with water over any 24 hour period
Applications under 10 seconds long could make up a maximum 8 minutes on top of the four mentioned above
While it is worth noting that reports indicate the CIA exceeded these guidelines in the case of al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, these limits are not conducive to creating significant conditions of hypoxia or hypercapnia.
The typical person can hold their breath for 40 seconds without too much difficulty or distress. The CIA's waterboarding was designed to bring about the sensation of drowning, not the literal effects of drowning (hypoxia, hypercapnia, aspiration and swallowing of water). That is why the techniques often break prisoners in about 10 seconds.
And the other problem?
The CIA did not interrogate prisoners while waterboarding them. Nor did the CIA use the technique to obtain confessions under duress. Waterboarding was used to make prisoners more amenable to conventional forms of interrogation.
None of this information is difficult to find.
Why do the fact checkers at PolitiFact (not to mention elsewhere) have such a tough time figuring this stuff out?
There likely isn't any significant scientific evidence either for or against the effectiveness of waterboarding. PolitiFact pretending there is does not make it so.