Back when the Bush administration was using "enhanced interrogation techniques" on suspected terrorists -- also known as "torture" to most of the West -- the most hotly debated trick was waterboarding. That's the one where you make a prisoner think he's drowning by slowly pouring water over his face while he's restrained. The Bushies insisted this didn't constitute torture and a few very brave souls -- most notably Christopher Hitchens -- let themselves be waterboarded to judge for themselves.
Turns out our own Bill Nelson wanted to be one of those waterboardees. According to a new book, Nelson asked the CIA to use the technique on him -- but the agency was too worried the aging senator might keel over and die and refused.
"Even though we would have had medical personnel standing by, we wondered what would happen" if Nelson croaked, former CIA official Jose Rodriguez writes in the book, according to the Washington Post.
It's an interesting revelation from Rodriguez, considering the gist of his new book -- called "Hard Measures -- How Aggressive CIA Actions After 911 Saved American Lives: -- argues strongly in favor of waterboarding and other torture on suspects.
You also have to credit Nelson's gumption; as a former astronaut, he's certainly braved through some extreme conditions in his career. But he was apparently the only sitting politician to tell the CIA that he "wanted to find out for himself how it felt."
Take Chris Hitchens word for it, Bill: It's not a lot of fun. Hitchens, who largely supported the Bush administration after 9/11, titled his famous Vanity Fair piece on the technique: "Believe Me, It's Torture."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
In his book, though, Rodriguez insists that waterboarding isn't torture, while conceding it "is harsh and unpleasant."
Unpleasant enough, evidently, that the agency wasn't confident that the robust Nelson could survive the experience. Kind of a damning argument against waterboarding, isn't it?