Report: ISIS waterboarded captives

U.S. journalist James Foley, beheaded by ISIS, is pictured here in Aleppo on November 5, 2012.

Story highlights

  • The Washington Post reports that ISIS waterboarded its hostages
  • Those tortured included American journalist James Foley
  • The CIA used waterboarding as an interrogation technique in the past

Did ISIS use a notorious former CIA interrogation technique on Western hostages?

At least four ISIS hostages in Syria were waterboarded during their captivity, the Washington Post reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources familiar with the treatment of the abducted Westerners.

Among those waterboarded was James Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded by the terror group.

Waterboarding has a long history, but most recently the method is attached to the CIA, which used the technique during interrogations of terror suspects after 9-11.

Waterboarding is an interrogation technique in which water is poured over a cloth covering the subject's face, creating the sensation of drowning.

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A senior U.S. official declined to confirm to CNN if the waterboarding claims are true, saying that such details would not be discussed out of sensitivity to the families of those still being held.

"As we have said, hostages held by ISIL are at risk every day they are in ISIL's custody, given what we know about the nature of this brutal group," the official said, using an alternate acronym for ISIS.

A 2005 Justice Department memo -- released by the Obama administration -- revealed that alleged September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been waterboarded 183 times in March 2003.

Lawyers during the George W. Bush administration justified the use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," including waterboarding. His administration viewed the techniques as necessary to protect Americans from the terrorist threat.

President Barack Obama's position is that waterboarding amounts to torture and "violates our ideals and our values."

"That's why I put an end to these practices," he said in 2009. "I am absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do -- not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees who were subjected to this treatment, but because we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are."

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