Our modern Guantanamo torturers used the same tools that were used during the Spanish Inquisition in the 13th and 14th centuries, such as stress positions and, yes, even waterboarding! The inquisition continued for 600 years, and in the January/February issue of The Atlantic, Cullen Murphy writes: "It has never quite ended–the office charged today with safeguarding doctrine and meting out discipline occupies the Inquisition’s old palazzo at the Vatican." What’s more, there’s evidence that US covert agencies looked at old papal documents in order to discover these nefarious techniques.
Murphy writes about Bishop (and papal inquisitor) Bernard Gui, who found over 600 people guilty of heresy over a period of 15 years and found unique ways to kill all of them (but not before torturing them extensively first). He even kept accounting records of the costs of getting in enough firewood to burn people at the stake! Murphy says: "Bernard Gui’s most productive day was April 5, 1310, when he condemned 17 people to death." She adds, "His aim was to create something like a science of interrogation. "
Place the medieval techniques alongside those laid out in modern handbooks, such as the US Army interrogation manual, and the inquisitors’ practices seem very up-to-date."
The Inquisition relied on three specific methods, two of which are still used today. Cullen writes: "Before a session began, the person to be interrogated would be brought into the torture chamber and told what was to be done." This was often enough to compel testimony (although most covert operators don’t think it necessarily produces the truth, but that people will say anything they think their interrogator wants to hear in these circumstances.
The second method was the rack, which tore a living body apart, limb-from-limb. Thank goodness our government never used that one, but we did use the third technique, which involved water. Cullen writes: "The effect was to induce the sensation of asphyxiation by drowning. "The Inquisition is not a closed chapter. It is an open book."
Let us hope we can avoid situations like this in the future (instead of simply repeating the past). Speaking of the future, can you imagine a time machine that is actually a PAINTING created by a group of CIA agents hiding out in what appears to be a mental institution? This incredible idea is the plot behind Whitley Strieber’s incredible novel The Omega Point, which is available in hardcover or paperback from the Whitley Strieber Collection (and it will come with an autographed bookplate, designed by Whitley).