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WASHINGTON (CAP) - With the "wink wink, nudge nudge" legality of waterboarding established by the Mukasey Attorney General nomination hearings behind them, the Senate is poised to consider another controversial interrogation technique as it reconvenes following the Thanksgiving break.
"You know, I'm thoroughly repulsed by the very thought of dustboarding, but does that mean it should be banned?" asked Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Questionable Intelligence Practices (SubQIP). SubQIP's job is to look into the moral and ethical issues surrounding the incarceration and interrogation of Global War on Terror detainees.
"Curtailed maybe? Chided? I'm not sure, but those are the tough questions we'll be asking, you can be sure of that," Schumer said.
Long the red-headed stepchild of the extreme interrogation toolbox, dustboarding is reported to be widely used by US troops across the globe. It involves the slow pouring of sand over a stationary prisoner's head, and the feeling has been described by some as simulating the sensation of being very, very thirsty and lost in the desert.
Some of its harshest detractors are those most in favor of torture-like techniques.
"You're simulating extreme thirst and desert conditions to try and get an Arab to talk? WTF is that?" asked Buzzy Lenoir, a former tactical analyst with the Blackwater USA security firm. "I can see this being effective with your Hawaiian terrorist, or your Columbian Al Qaeda agent - basically anyone from tropical rainforest zones.
"You're just wasting your time and potential lives trying to parch an Arab, though," Lenoir added.
Harold Singer of U-Will Tell, Inc., a Topeka-based interrogation device supplier, summed up the feelings of many dustboarding supporters during his many speaking engagements before Scouting, women's and other community groups.
"Look, it's cheap, it's easy, and you do it long enough, it's going to work," Singer told CAP News. "Thirst is a powerful thing, as anyone with a drinking problem can attest to. At U-Will Tell, we sell dustboarding starter kits for $27.37, and we ship worldwide for free.
"It's our way of saying let's torture the bastards over there, so we don't have to do it over here," Singer said.
SubQIP will take up the issue of dustboarding at its next meeting. It meets the first Tuesday of every December in a basement auditorium of the Russell Senate Office Building.
- Rich Gray