Sunday, March 29, 2009


Dick Cheney likes to say that locking up Al Qaeda suspects in Guantanamo without any rights to trial or to legal counsel, as well as waterboarding and other methods of torture on these detainees, made the U.S. safer. Witness no attacks sine 9/11.

Cheney's assertions of course come with no evidence or support. Cheney claims that he has seen intelligence reports saying that "harsh interrogation methods" work and have resulted in information which has foiled serious attacks in their incipient phase. But Cheney says the reports are classified, so we will just have to accept his word for it.

Today, however, Joby Warrick and Peter Finn write in The Washington Post that contrary to the assertions of George W. Bush and Cheney, the waterboarding and other torture applied to Abu Zabaida yielded no useful information, but wasted millions of dollars of investigation time by the CIA and FBI on unsubstantiated phony leads.

Write Finn and Warrick:

"When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.

"The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.

"In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said."

So much for Bush & Cheney's baseless claims that waterboarding and other torture succeeded in foiling terrorist plots aimed at the U.S. Yet these guys, especially Cheney, continue to make the unfounded claims that because of their direction for tougher interrogation (aka torture), the United States was made safer from terrorist attacks.

Write Warrick and Finn:

"Despite the poor results, Bush White House officials and CIA leaders continued to insist that the harsh measures applied against Abu Zubaida and others produced useful intelligence that disrupted terrorist plots and saved American lives.

"Two weeks ago, Bush's vice president, Richard B. Cheney, renewed that assertion in an interview with CNN, saying that "the enhanced interrogation program" stopped "a great many" terrorist attacks on the level of Sept. 11.

""I've seen a report that was written, based upon the intelligence that we collected then, that itemizes the specific attacks that were stopped by virtue of what we learned through those programs," Cheney asserted, adding that the report is "still classified," and, "I can't give you the details of it without violating classification."

"Since 2006, Senate intelligence committee members have pressed the CIA, in classified briefings, to provide examples of specific leads that were obtained from Abu Zubaida through the use of waterboarding and other methods, according to officials familiar with the requests."

Note Cheney's statement appearing to vouch for the bad intelligence that "itemizes the specific attacks that were stopped by virtue of what we learned through those programs . . ." He says, "I've seen a report that was written . . . that itemizes . . ." So Cheney has seen a report. Does he believe the contents of the report? Does he say that the contents were true? Someone wrote a report that Cheney now uses to imply that "specific attacks" were stopped. Who wrote the report? Was it someone on Cheney's staff, such as David Addington?

Cheney's statement is crafty insofar as Cheney says he has seen a report but cannot make it public because it is classified. But that does not mean that the content of the report was true, or that the information was solid, or that the author wrote the report for any other than biased political argumentation.

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