The Torturer’s Apologist

Our guest blogger is Ken Gude, Associate Director of the International Rights and Responsibility Program at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

thiessen1.jpgIn a Washington Post op-ed today, Mark Thiessen claims that torture kept Americans safe, but his piece reveals far more about Thiessen’s ignorance about both torture and intelligence than about “enhanced interrogation” techniques.

Thiessen claims that “without enhanced interrogations, there could be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York.” Thiessen is referring to the Library Tower attack that President Bush revealed in a February 2006 speech at the height of the outcry over the NSA warrantless wiretapping program. Khalid Sheik Mohammed apparently told his CIA interrogators about this “plot” during one of his 183 waterboarding sessions.

This is exactly the kind of garbage you get from torture when the detainee will grasp for whatever he thinks his captors want to hear. One former National Security Council official put the “Library Tower story” in Al Qaeda’s “what if” category along side “what if Superman had worked for the Nazis.” In a report debunking the Library Tower claim a full year before Bush’s 2006 speech, the Los Angeles Times quoted a senior FBI official saying “to take that [Library Tower] and make it into a disrupted plot is just ludicrous.”

Its not surprising that Thiessen would resurrect a supposed plot from a Bush speech because he probably wrote it. That’s right: Thiessen was a speechwriter, not an intelligence analyst, something that comes through loud and clear in his writing. He notes approvingly that torture “has resulted in more than 6,000 intelligence reports,” which is like saying a baseball game resulted in 250 pitches. It’s an accurate figure, but a completely meaningless measurement. One CIA official who read all the reports on the KSM interrogations described them as, “total f***ing bulls***.”

For the sake of argument, lets just accept that LA was saved from another 9/11 because we tortured KSM. Even then, Thiessen’s claim that torture has kept Americans safe dissolves when one considers that our official policy of torture has resulted in hundreds of American soldiers and Marines being killed in Iraq.

Matthew Alexander, the pseudonym for the military interrogator in Iraq who uncovered — through a humane interrogation — the information that led to the airstrike that killed al Qaeda in Iraq’s leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, said he “listened time and time again to foreign fighters, and Sunni Iraqis, state that the number one reason they had decided to pick up arms and join Al Qaeda was the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the authorized torture and abuse at Guantanamo Bay.” He also wrote that “the large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq…. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.”

It’s depressing to watch former Bush administration officials defend “enhanced interrogation.” I wish Thiessen would have the guts to call it torture, but I guess that’s expecting too much from these guys. A former Pentagon analyst provided a perfect epilogue for this entire episode, “KSM produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.”