The Blog

Plumbing the Depths

11:17 PM, Aug 25, 2009 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The Washington Post's Greg Sargent is worked up about the fact that "big news orgs" have not declared Dick Cheney a liar for claiming that EITs were effective. (For the record, many people still consider the Washington Post a big news org.) Sargent argues that "the docs themselves don't actually prove Cheney's claims" that the EITs were effective, he suggests that those who believe otherwise don't live in "the real world," and he calls the coverage "embarrassing."

So why the reluctance? Maybe it's because of the mainstream media's well-known pro-Cheney bias. We all remember the endless stream of flattering pieces about Cheney's ability to keep secrets, his willingness to listen quietly in meetings, and his eagerness to sacrifice his own personal popularity to defend unpopular policies that he believed kept the nation safe.

Or maybe it's because the documents -- including the much-ballyhooed Inspector General report -- actually do demonstrate that EITs were effective. Consider the IG report's section on Abd al Rahim al Nashiri.

With respect to al Nashiri [redacted] reported two waterboard sessions in November 2002, after which the psychologist/interrogations determined that al Nashiri was compliant. However, after being moved [redacted] al Nashiri was thought to be withholding information. Al Nashiri subsequently received additional EITs, [redacted] but not the waterboard. The Agency then determined al Nashiri to be "compliant." Because of the litany of techniques used by different interrogators over a relatively short period of time, it is difficult to identify why exactly al Nashiri became more willing to provide information. However, following the use of EITs, he provided information about his most current operational planning and [redacted] as opposed to the historical information he provided before the use of EITs.

Let's examine those last two sentences again. "Because of the litany of techniques used by different interrogators over a relatively short period of time, it is difficult to identify why exactly al Nashiri became more willing to provide information." The context makes the meaning clear: We cannot specify which EIT made al Nashiri more willing to provide more information. And in case there were any doubt, the final sentence is categorical. "Following the use of EITs, he provided information about his most current operational planning and [redacted] as opposed to the historical information he provided before the use of EITs."

Similarly, on page 91, the IG report notes that Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, "an accomplished resistor, 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." But four pages earlier, we learn from the IG about the valuable information that KSM did give up. KSM

provided information that helped lead to the arrests of terrorists including Sayfullah Paracha and his son Uzair Paracha, businessmen who Khalid Shaykh Muhammad planned to use to smuggle explosives into the United States; Saleh Almari, a sleeper operative in New York; and Majid Khan, an operative who could enter the United States easily and was tasked to research attacks [redacted]. Khalid Shaykh Muhammad's information also led to the investigation and prosecution of Iyman Faris, the truck driver arrested in early 2003 in Ohio.

So, we know that before KSM was waterboarded, he gave up virtually nothing and what little intelligence he did provide was mostly "outdated, inaccurate or incomplete." And we also know that some of KSM's interrogations provided detailed, valuable information that led to the detention of sleeper agents in the United States plotting attacks. Despite this, Sargent wants to believe -- and wants big news orgs to report -- that this second batch of intelligence reports from KSM -- the highly-valuable ones -- came from the pre-waterboarding interrogations.