As promised, some further analysis of Bush’s contention that torture is awesome because torturing Abu Zubaydah led him to “identif[y] one of KSM’s accomplices in the 9/11 attacks — a terrorist named Ramzi bin al Shibh.” Spencer Ackerman writes:
A Nexis search for “Ramzi Binalshibh” between September 11, 2001 and March 1, 2002–the U.S. captured Abu Zubaydah in March 2002–turns up 26 hits for The Washington Post alone. Everyone involved in counterterrorism knew who bin Al Shibh was. Now-retired FBI Al Qaeda hunter Dennis Lormel told Congress who Ramzi bin Al Shibh was in February 2002. Abu Zubaydah getting waterboarded and spouting bin Al Shibh’s name did not tell us anything we did not already know.
That’s a month before Zubaydah’s capture, for the record. And, presumably, the FBI knew something about this matter before revealing it in public statements to congress. Bush is, once again, just making stuff up. Will he get called on it? I’m not optimistic. Obviously, it will be difficult to convince the American people of this, but Bush-style routine application of torture is a genuinely unsound investigative technique. There’s a reason this is the best example Bush can come up with of the utility of his methods — his methods don’t work. Historically, the main use of torture has been to generate bogus confessions. Sometimes, this is deliberate policy — Stalin very much wanted a lot of bogus confessions and using torture he got them. Why, exactly, Bush is so interested in ginning up this kind of pseudo-information I couldn’t say, but pseudo-information is precisely what he’s getting.