February 5, 2008: CIA Admits to Waterboarding


On February 8, 2008, the CIA admitted that, after the 9/11 attacks, the used waterboarding, a horrific form of torture, on 3 men.

Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA at the time, said that the circumstances surrounding 9/11 required them to go to extremes to get information, as they weren't sure if the U.S. was safe from further attacks.

The 3 men were held in 2002 and 2003 and tortured during that time.

Hayden said that, at the time, less than 100 people had been held in the CIA's terrorism detention center, with less than a third subjected to "coercive" techniques, aka, torture.

In 2008, waterboarding was technically in the CIA's arsenal for use, but to use it required the approval of the president and attorney general.

Though the CIA admits to only 3 people being waterboarded while in their custody, many other forms of torture have been used by the U.S.


The CIA used many methods of torture on their prisoners in order to get information from them. Of course, one of those methods was waterboarding: Where the person is put on a declined board, a hood is put over their head, and water is poured on their face until they are all but drowning. (2)

The conditions were often completely pitch black, with horrific noises or music at a loud enough decibel to cause damage to ear drums. (2)

Stress positions were also used, sometimes forcing people who had broken their legs or feet to stand in positions that would put all of their pressure on that injury for hours at a time, even though they had allegedly said they would do nothing to exacerbate existing injuries. (2)

Some were subject to forced rectal feeding, enemas, or other types of sexual humiliation. Prisoners were sometimes sexually assaulted, or their children were threatened. (2)

Stripping the prisoner, hooding them, and dragging them down corridors was also a common form of torture. (2)

Prisoners were also subject to hypothermia from standing in cold air naked with ice cold water being thrown on them. Extreme heat was used, alternatively. (3)

They could be beaten too, by striking in the abdomen, slapping across the face over and over or shaking the prisoner extremely hard. (3)

Other forms of torture included starving, water deprivation, withholding necessary medical care and isolation. (3)


Prisoner Zayn Al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn was the first known person to be waterboarded by the CIA - 83 times, to be exact. He was also the first person known to be crammed into a small confinement box.

Though he was interrogated in relation to the 9/11 attacks, it turned out that he had no prior knowledge of the attacks, was not a member of Al Qaeda, and had never been charged with any crime.

The cover image of this article was drawn by him. He drew many types of torture that he endured while being in CIA custody, helping to put an image to the horrors he went through.

He drew himself nude on a board, strapped on in 4 places, with water being dumped on his face.

He drew himself nude, shackled by the wrists above his head, forcing him to remain on his tip-toes for hours at a time, a stress position that caused immense pain.

He drew the practice of "walling", where his captor would bash his head into a wall repeatedly.

He drew himself confined in both large and small boxes. The large box was a bit larger than a coffin, where he could stand or sit on a bucket. He could not move any more than that. The small box, or "the dog box" was so small he had to remain shackled in the fetal position - there was no other position for his body to be in.

He drew himself shackled by the arms and legs while trying to sleep, but the position was so uncomfortable he could not. He would be up for days, weeks at a time.

Though the torture the CIA put their prisoners through was known before the images were shared, putting a human being and a drawing to the extreme things they went through makes it all the more horrifying.


In 2014, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a document with their findings from the CIA's detention and interrogration program. (3)

Among 525 pages of findings, they determined that, despite the narrative they'd pushed, these torturous techniques were not effective in gaining any intelligence needed, the conditions were far harsher than what had been presented to them, and ultimately, it "damaged the United States' standing in the world". (3)

Today, 12 years later, torture is no longer legal, both in the United States and internationally. In fact, on Obama's second day in office, he issued an executive order strengthening the already existing ban on torture, and limiting interrogators to the tactics that were in the Army Field Manual. (5)

While some think that, because terrorist groups use torture, that the U.S. looks weak by not using the practice, it has been shown that torture does not benefit the investigation and does not lead to the information needed. And, if there is no benefit of torture, it becomes inflicting pain and fear for the sole purpose of inflicting pain and fear, a practice that a civilized country should not engage in.


1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/feb/05/india.terrorism

2. https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-most-gruesome-moments-in-the-cia-torture-report


4. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/04/us/politics/cia-torture-drawings.html

5. https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/campaigns/never-torture/facts-torture

© 2023 by Train of Thoughts. Proudly created with Wix.com