Friday, December 21, 2007

A Remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still"???

Klaatu barada stinko.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Inside information?

Now we hear from a retired CIA employee that abu Zubaida was tortured at the order of the highest officials. But, although he participated in the early interrogation, he apparently has no firsthand information about the torture and its outcome--so his claims that it yielded valuable information must be taken with a grain or two of salt (he may trust those who told him this, but we don't necessarily have to).

After contrasting Suskind's account with Kiriakou's, Steve Benen says, "At this point, I have no idea who’s right about this. Either Zubaydah was an unstable schizophrenic who had no useful intelligence at all, or Zubaydah was a valuable al Qaeda asset who offered key information that saved lives."

Could be both. It is possible that even a mentally ill man may know one or two facts that could be of use--in among the mountains of fantasy. He could also have been presented with questions like "Do you know XXX?", with a positive response taken as confirmation of what the questioner already "knew".

We do know that the years after 9/11 produced a stream of valueless alerts, based on "credible intelligence".

Friday, December 07, 2007

Erasing the evidence (updated)

So, the CIA videotaped interrogations and then destroyed the tapes. They claim that they had to destroy them for "security".

The security claim is obviously bunk, but I think there's more here than just the torture being recorded.

Abu Zubaydah is the key. It was quickly apparent that he was a couple of cans short of a six-pack, but despite this knowledge Bush bragged about how they had captured a central Al Qaeda figure.

As Ron Suskind wrote in "The One Percent Doctrine" (this description from the Washington Post review):

"I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."

I think what they were most afraid of revealing was the fact that their interrogations yielded utter trash. That's why the tapes had to be destroyed.

Update: I see Kevin Drum has come to the same conclusion.