MSNBC's Scarborough Tells A Former Naval Intelligence Official Who Says Waterboarding Doesn't Work That He's Wrong

From the March 8 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

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MIKA BREZEZINKSI (HOST): Joining us now, Executive Director of the Terror Asymmetrics Project on Strategy, Tactics and Radical Ideology, Malcolm Nance. He's a combat veteran and a retired U.S. Navy Intelligence Collections Operator. His new book, Defeating ISIS: Who They Are, How They Fight, What They Believe, is out today. And it really -- at some point, defeating ISIS all boils down to, Malcolm, understanding exactly who they are and how they fight. Do you think that the candidates, especially the Republican front-runner, has a firm hold on that concept?

MALCOLM NANCE: Wow, that's a great question right out of the box. Well, I think that there is a broad, broad, and deep misunderstanding of who ISIS is, ideologically and operationally. Everybody thinks that you can just bomb these people. And we have been fighting this exact same group since before 9/11, actually, since 1991. This is Al Qaeda's extended ideology, but in sort of a flash mob mentality. I don't think Donald Trump has a clue as to who ISIS is. I don't think that he understands the depth of their commitment and certainly not the ability to root them out. And I certainly hope that he gets some form of advice from combat [INAUDIBLE].

BREZEZINKSI: Where does torture play a role in understanding the enemy and the impact it has?

NANCE: Well first off, torture absolutely, positively does not work. I was in charge of the program for the department -- for the United States Navy. I ran waterboards, waterboarding program. We teach and we have an entire history, 239 years of U.S. military personnel captive, since the French and Indian wars. It doesn't work.

BREZEZINKSI: Why doesn't it work?

NANCE: Because all it does is it pushes a person to say something. And that's why we have an entire Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape School program to teach people how to say the right thing, but not to give up information. We teach it doesn't work.

BREZEZINSKI: Joe, jump in.

JOE SCARBOROUGH (HOST): Is it your position that waterboarding didn't work on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? Because there is a lot of intel suggests that, in fact, it did.

NANCE: Well you know, intelligence is intelligence. If a person opens his mouth, and the reason that, again, we teach this, is because that person is wasting your time. We actually have an entire Department of Defense program that's been going since the Korean War to teach that the battlefield is across the table. As a matter of fact, Joe, there was the comment you made back in 2007 that waterboarding was more akin to a fraternity prank where I wrote my article, “Waterboarding is Torture. Period.” And that one article changed the Defense Department's entire perspective on waterboarding. It doesn't work. There is documentation it doesn't work. Because the guy opened his mouth and maybe 200 applications of water does not mean that you have successfully gotten intelligence. You have gotten him to speak.

SCARBOROUGH: I don't remember talking about a fraternity prank, but I certainly do know that the perception that you're trying to get people to talk while they're being waterboarded. And of course we're talking about something that's in the past tense that will never be used again.

NANCE: True.

SCARBOROUGH: But it's not like you get people to talk while you're waterboarding them. You do talk to them across the table after it happened, and at least people that I talked to that were involved in the program said that there, especially with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, they got reams and reams and reams of actionable intelligence. So when you said it doesn't work, that seems to go against the actual findings of the CIA operatives who actually performed it on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

NANCE: Well, there is a difference between scientific study and actual programs and anecdotes. Those people, that information has not been made public and none of that information can be validated. If it took them ten years to get what you call reams of actionable intelligence and they had to sift through everything he said, then he's wasted ten years of your time. We teach our servicemembers to waste the time of the enemy.

SCARBOROUGH:  It didn't take ten years, Malcolm, you know what you're talking about here. I don't mean to be disrespectful --

NANCE: I've been waterboarded and I actually taught the program. So I know a little something about it.


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