Saudi Princes and Waterboarding; Our Recommended Reads of the Week

A New Yorker dive into Saudi Arabia's new leader and a Huffington post Story that reveals hidden facts about waterboarding top our list of must reads this week.

High-stakes geopolitical battles were featured in two admirable pieces of recent reporting.

Saudi Arabia's young and ambitious new leader, Mohammed bin Salman, whom New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman enthusiastically endorsed, gets a critical look in this fascinating profile by the New Yorker's Dexter Filkins. Among his revelations: that the Mueller investigation is looking into whether agents from the United Arab Emirates, which is aligned with M.B.S., illegally pumped millions into Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

He also examines the Saudis' punishing blockade of its neighbor and American ally, Qatar, which Trump has supported and the U.S. is backing.

This hostile act, Filkins suggests, occurred in part because Qatar's finance minister refused a request by Jared Kushner's real-estate mogul father, Charles, to invest a billion dollars in the family's troubled crown jewel, the Manhattan high-rise at 666 Fifth Avenue.

"If they had given Kushner the money, would there have been a blockade?" an intelligence analyst source told Filkins. "I don't think so." 

The Huffington Post's Jessica Schulberg took a look at the practice of waterboarding — and discovered that apologist claims about the notorious torture technique, which was used on our own military recruits to help them resist interrogations, was undercut by a hidden fact. The military actually stopped waterboarding its members in 2007 because it was too harsh; too many of them broke.

So that went against the basic idea of strengthening the psychological resolve of Navy Seals and other elite soldiers. Also, waterboarding didn't work. Those involved in the program told Schulberg that subjects would say anything to make it stop, not necessarily providing truthful or valuable intel.

The issue relates to the candidacy of Gina Haspel, Donald Trump's pick to head the CIA. Haspel, a veteran officer, served at secret prison in Thailand where waterboarding was used 83 times on terrorist Abu Zubaydah, including three times after Haspel took over as supervisor of the facility. She's likely to face aggressive questioning on that during her confirmation hearing.

Schulberg also did a Q&A imparting insights into her reporting.

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