What Does It Mean to Be Waterboarded?

Waterboarding is a controversial interrogation technique that simulates drowning. Learn about its psychological impact, legal issues, case studies, and statistics.


Waterboarding is a controversial interrogation technique that simulates drowning by pouring water over a cloth covering the face and breathing passages of an immobilized captive. This method has sparked ethical debates and legal concerns around the world.

How Waterboarding Works

During a waterboarding session, the subject is typically immobilized on a inclined board with his or her head lower than the feet. A cloth is placed over the face, and water is poured over the cloth to create a sensation of drowning. The subject is unable to breathe properly and experiences extreme discomfort and panic.

The Psychological Impact

Being waterboarded can have severe psychological effects on the individual. The feeling of suffocation and helplessness can lead to extreme stress, fear, and trauma. Some subjects may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the experience.

Legal and Ethical Issues

Waterboarding is considered torture by many international organizations and human rights advocates. It violates the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Convention against Torture. In the United States, waterboarding was officially banned by President Barack Obama in 2009.

Case Studies

One of the most well-known cases of waterboarding is that of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times by the CIA during his interrogation. The ethical implications of this treatment continue to be debated to this day.


  • According to a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, at least 119 detainees were subjected to waterboarding by the CIA between 2002 and 2008.
  • Studies have shown that waterboarding can produce unreliable information due to the subject’s desire to end the torture.
  • Human rights organizations continue to advocate for the complete abolition of waterboarding as an interrogation technique.

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