An active duty Green Beret allowed himself to be waterboarded on Facebook Live, in an effort to prove the interrogation method is not torture and should not be held against President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA.
Tim Kennedy, who is also a mixed martial arts fighter, said the stunt is intended to show members of Congress are unfairly judging embattled CIA nominee Gina Haspel, who played a role in an overseas “black site prison” where "harsh interrogation" was used, reports USAToday.
Kennedy, 38, allowed a group of beer-drinking buddies to waterboard him for nearly 30 minutes on Friday, while they joked and laughed.
"I just want everybody to understand what waterboarding is an opportunity for us to get information, useful information, out of somebody that we’re questioning,” said Kennedy, before the waterboarding began. "There’s no permanent damage and it’s just the fear of water that scares people."
The video is staged on a picnic table in his yard, where the men placed a towel on his face and alternated using buckets of water and a garden hose.
Kennedy occasionally chokes, gags and spits up water, but he never concedes he's being tortured. In fact, he tells jokes.
He also addresses viewers at various points, explaining what he’s feeling.
“You can’t hold your breath while they do it because the water runs down your sinuses. The water run through your eyes, down your nose, and pools at the back of your throat,” he said in a Facebook post.
The video of his waterboarding has been viewed nearly 200,000 times in recent days. Some segments of the session were also tweeted out, and they have drawn nearly 6,000 comments and more than 3,000 retweets.
Comments have been largely supportive, though some question if he has replicated what a imprisoned detainee might go through in the hands of an enemy.
“You're being water-boarded by friends and you know while doing this you can stop at any time,” posted David Hollingsworth. “Using this as an example of water-boarding would be like me having my friends lock me in a room for a couple hours and calling it solitary confinement."
"Torture is a slippery slope,” posted Simon Gonifas. "The founding fathers were opposed to it because it was used a lot by governments in their day... I always thought...the bad guys torture the good guys don't. That is what separates us from the savages.”
Kennedy has a web site devoted to his career, and it lists him as an active duty Green Beret and a Mixed Martial Arts middleweight fighter.
He also makes no secret of his support for Haspel, calling her “an amazing hero,” on Facebook.
"Gina (Haspel) was going through a CIA confirmation hearing...and people were asking about her perspective on morality, that she had lost her sense of right and wrong because she had participated and condoned the interrogation of terrorists,” he says in the Facebook Live video.
"If I could change one person’s mind about what you think torture is...I would do this for years.”
As for what happened after his waterboarding, Kennedy said on Facebook that the group of men went out together for elk meat tacos and wine.
White House staff and the CIA have played up Haspel's decades of experience as a selling point among congressional leaders, media outlets report. However, many Democrats and some Republicans have questioned her involvement in a "now-discredited torture program" developed after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, according to McClatchy reports.
Among the most controversial of her past roles is a period in 2002 when Haspel was in Thailand working with "a secret detention facility, known as Cat’s Eye," reported McClatchy. Suspected terrorists at the site were subjected to torture techniques, including waterboarding, media outlets report.
Fox New reports more than 100 former U.S. ambassadors sent Senator leaders a letter last week opposing Haspel's nomination.