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Waterboarding Worked

1:53 PM, Jun 23, 2008 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Many have already expressed appropriate outrage at the New York Times for printing the name of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad's CIA interrogator, Deuce Martinez. Surely Martinez--who interrogated leaders of an organization with a penchant for sawing off heads--was put in much greater danger than, say, Valerie Plame, who was working a desk job at the CIA when her identity became public knowledge, to the horror of a whole host of people who had never before lost any sleep over CIA assets.

But what was lost in the discussion over the Times's reckless decision is the story's revealing reporting on the efficacy of waterboarding. According to the Times, senior FBI "agents got Abu Zubaydah talking without the use of force, and he revealed the central role of Mr. Mohammed in the 9/11 plot," but two paragraphs later we learn this:

John C. Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. counterterrorism officer who was the first to question Abu Zubaydah, [...] was not present for the waterboarding but read the resulting intelligence reports, said he had been told that Abu Zubaydah became compliant after 35 seconds of the water treatment.

"It was like flipping a switch," Mr. Kiriakou said of the shift from resistance to cooperation. He said he thought such "desperate measures" were justified in the "desperate time" in 2002 when another attack seemed imminent. But on reflection, he said, he had concluded that waterboarding was torture and should not be permitted. "We Americans are better than that," he said.

So for critics who say that there is no "proof" waterboarding worked: Now we have a statement from a CIA agent who thinks waterboarding is immoral but admits that it's what actually got Zubaydah talking.

That won't be surprising to most honest observers. Both presidential candidates oppose waterboarding and would ban it as unethical. But let's not delude ourselves into thinking that it doesn't actually work--there never would have been any debate if that were the case.