The Weekly Standard: Dead-enders For Torture

A central claim of the Cheneyite pro-torture faction is that the Bush administration’s torture program generated intelligence that successfully stopped specific plots and saved American lives. One of these plots was a plan to fly a plane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles, which torture supporters continue to insist was the result of information gotten from torturing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

But, as former FBI agent Ali Soufan reiterated in an op-ed on Saturday, the Library Tower plot “was thwarted in 2002, and Mr. Mohammed was not arrested until 2003.”

America’s torture enthusiasts, however, are not so easily deterred by such trivia. Echoing a claim by former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, the Weekly Standard’s Thomas Joscelyn insists that there was another Library Tower plot in the works. Citing a July 13, 2004, CIA memo which stated that an Al Qaeda operative named Hambali “admitted that he was grooming members of [a] cell for US operations -– at the behest of KSM -– probably as part of KSM’s plot to fly hijacked planes into the tallest building on the US West Coast,” Joscelyn writes that “we are left with the following”:

While the leader of the original four-man cell was arrested in 2002… two other members of the cell (Lillie and Zubair) remained free until after KSM’s capture. Lillie and Zubair reportedly moved on in their terrorist careers, but they still had originally volunteered to take part in a suicide hijacking. Do we really want to bet that they would not have eventually achieved their martyrdom? And who is to say that their superiors would not have repurposed them for a suicide hijacking once again? […]


Regardless, KSM, Hambali and “Gun Gun” managed to establish a significantly larger cell comprised of an additional 14 members. The U.S. government’s short biography of Hambali notes that the cell was established as early as 1999. Members of the cell… received “advanced doctrinal and operational training, including at al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.” And this cell, pilots and all, was being groomed for U.S. operations, probably targeting the “tallest building” on the West Coast.

I couldn’t have put it better myself — this is what torture’s defenders are left with: “Do we really want to bet…and who is to say…was being groomed…probably targeting.” Having to couch one’s claims in that much conjecture should be a pretty clear signal that those claims are really weak. (As Ken Gude noted last April, “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.’”) Not that any of this will deter the Weekly Standard, where they still believe to this day that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden had a secret pact to divvy up Poland.