In its editorial denouncing the Obama administration’s decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his 9/11 co-conspirators before a military tribunal, instead of a federal court, the New York Times writes:
Mr. Mohammed was subject to waterboard torture 183 times — after, his interrogators have said, he gave up all the useful information he had.
This is not true. In fact, the New York Times reported in 2008 on the “successes” a CIA interrogator named Deuce Martinez had in questioning KSM. Here is how the Times described it (emphasis added):
Mr. Martinez came in after the rough stuff, the ultimate good cop with the classic skills: an unimposing presence, inexhaustible patience and a willingness to listen to the gripes and musings of a pitiless killer in rambling, imperfect English. He achieved a rapport with Mr. Mohammed that astonished his fellow C.I.A. officers.
The Times discussed some of the “successes” Martinez had in questioning KSM, while noting that KSM became “compliant” only after enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) were employed:
By then, whether it was a result of a fear of waterboarding, the patient trust-building mastered by Mr. Martinez or the demoralizing effects of isolation, Mr. Mohammed and some other prisoners had become quite compliant. In fact, according to several officials, they had become a sort of terrorist focus group, advising their captors on their fellow extremists’ goals, ideology and tradecraft.
The Times, of course, didn’t want to argue that the EITs were what made KSM talk. But it is clear from its own reporting that KSM didn’t start cooperating until after they were used.
The CIA’s inspector general, who was no fan of the EIT program, similarly found that KSM gave up vital intelligence after he was waterboarded – not before. The IG found that KSM “provided only a few intelligence reports prior to the use of the waterboard, and analysis of that information revealed that much of it was outdated, inaccurate, or incomplete.”
So, the truth is precisely the opposite of what the Times claims.
Whatever one thinks of waterboarding and the other EITs, it is simply false to claim that waterboarding was used only after KSM became the CIA’s “most prolific” source on al Qaeda. The Times’s editors couldn’t even get this basic fact about KSM’s interrogations correct. Yet, ironically, they lament the supposed “huge gaps of competency and credibility” in the way others’ have approached this and other Guantanamo-related matters.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.