You can file this under the heading of “stuff we already knew.” Peter Finn and Joby Warrick write for the Washington Post that
…not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida — chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates — was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.
I already wrote a post about this same subject. It’s dated September 9, 2006. According to news stories then, what useful information came from Abu Zubaida was obtained through standard (e.g., Gevena convention-sanctioned) interrogation techniques. Once the “harsh interrogators” took over, no more useful information came from Zubaida.
Moreover, within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. President George W. Bush had publicly described him as “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations,” and other top officials called him a “trusted associate” of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. None of that was accurate, the new evidence showed.
In other words, the Bush Administration detained and tortured Abu Zubaida for the propaganda value.
This is not to say Abu Zubaida was not a player in the world of Islamic terrorism. He was, and there are good arguments for not releasing him, assuming he’s still sane.
But Abu Zubaida had strained and limited relations with bin Laden and only vague knowledge before the Sept. 11 attacks that something was brewing, the officials said.
Oh, I so miss the days when Ari Fleischer would tell us those cute stories about plots to take apart the Brooklyn Bridge with a chainsaw.
Anyway, Scott Horton, publius, and Marcy Wheeler all have insightful things to say about this mess.
There’s not much reaction from the Right yet, and I doubt there will be. There’s a story flying around that Joe Biden’s daughter was caught snorting coke, so you know the righties will be all over that for the next several days. It’s proof that liberals are bad parents, you know. The one rightie reaction I have seen dismisses the WaPo article as hearsay, and adds,
Once again we have a string of wild assertions made by the Washington Post via some â€œanonymous officialsâ€ and unrevealed â€œdocuments.â€
Of course we are supposed to believe these anonymous sources over Mr. Zubaidaâ€™s own claims. (The Post helpfully notes that he has memory problems, due to a head wound.)
I’m assuming the writer has unique knowledge of what “Mr. Zubaidaâ€™s own claims” are that contradict the WaPo story.
But obviously this is just the Post once again beating the drum for show trials about the (entirely legal and ethical) interrogation of terrorists.
And we know the interrogation is legal and ethical, because we say it is!
It really is too bad that the terrorists Flight 77 hit the Pentagon instead of, say, 15th Street.
See, the problem is that the Washington Post wasn’t happy enough during the Bush Administration. Indeed, many of us were insufficiently happy and should have received political re-education and maybe some harsh interrogation until we were happy.