"We waterboard, incidentally, hundreds of our own military personnel. They waterboard themselves in training to toughen themselves up."
Duncan Hunter on Monday, in an interview on MSNBC
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THE RULING: MOSTLY TRUE
In a discussion on MSNBC's Hardball program about whether the government ought to consider prosecuting people involved in enhanced interrogation techniques used on some terror suspects, former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, argued that the issue really comes down to waterboarding.
"And," he said, "waterboarding is not torture."
In fact, said Hunter, a Vietnam War veteran, "We waterboard, incidentally, hundreds of our own military personnel. They waterboard themselves in training to toughen themselves up."
We examined Hunter's claim about waterboarding our service personnel as part of their training and found that he is right.
U.S. special operations troops have, in the past, sometimes used a form of waterboarding as part of survival exercises, called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training.
The idea is to prepare them in the event they are ever captured and interrogated with such means.
According to reports in the New York Times and Vanity Fair, the CIA adopted some of the interrogation techniques used on terror suspects from that SERE training, including the use of waterboarding.
But while the techniques may have been derived from SERE training, a different, more intense brand of waterboarding was used on terror suspects, recently released CIA documents say.
According to a May 7, 2004, CIA Inspector General special report on interrogation techniques used on terror suspects:
"The difference was in the manner in which the detainee's breathing was obstructed. At the SERE School and in the DoJ (Department of Justice) opinion, the subject's airflow is disrupted by the firm application of a damp cloth over the air passages. ... By contrast, the Agency interrogator (redacted) continuously applied large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee's mouth and nose."
So we think Hunter misleads a bit by equating waterboarding in training of military personnel with the technique used on terror suspects.
Still, Hunter is correct that the U.S. military has waterboarded servicemen as part of survival training. And so we rule his statement Mostly True.