Remember how the neocons and torture lovers were trying to justify waterboarding by saying that it saved lives because it got a high-level icky terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, to provide “actionable intelligence”? Just like they’d claimed with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?
We already knew it was horsepucky in Mohammed’s case, but now it’s been confirmed well beyond any reasonable doubt in Zubaydah’s — and by the very man, John Kiriakou, who had made the initial, much-trumpeted claim to ABC News that it worked on Zubaydah:
Well, it’s official now: John Kiriakou, the former CIA operative who affirmed claims that waterboarding quickly unloosed the tongues of hard-core terrorists, says he didn’t know what he was talking about.
On the next-to-last page of a new memoir, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror (written with Michael Ruby), Kiriakou now rather off handedly admits that he basically made it all up.
“What I told Brian Ross in late 2007 was wrong on a couple counts,” he writes. “I suggested that Abu Zubaydah had lasted only thirty or thirty-five seconds during his waterboarding before he begged his interrogators to stop; after that, I said he opened up and gave the agency actionable intelligence.”
But never mind, he says now.
“I wasn’t there when the interrogation took place; instead, I relied on what I’d heard and read inside the agency at the time.”
In a word, it was hearsay, water-cooler talk.
“Now we know,” Kiriakou goes on, “that Zubaydah was waterboarded eighty-three times in a single month, raising questions about how much useful information he actually supplied.”
Indeed we do now know that Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times — and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times — in the space of a single month, thanks to a certain Marcy Wheeler. In both cases, the “need” to endlessly repeat the torture raised questions about its effectiveness in providing genuinely accurate, much less useful, information; as US Navy veteran Jesse Ventura, who underwent the procedure as part of his SEAL training, said on Larry King Live: “You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney, and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.” But I digress:
… Kiriakou adds that he didn’t have any first hand knowledge of anything relating to CIA torture routines, and still doesn’t. And he claims that the disinformation he helped spread was a CIA dirty trick: “In retrospect, it was a valuable lesson in how the CIA uses the fine arts of deception even among its own.”
And an equally valuable lesson in how the conservative media operates.