Speaking at the Center for Security Policy’s National Security Group Lunch on Capitol Hill, here is Marc Thiessen last November, promoting his book, Courting Disaster, released earlier this month:
I’m now about halfway through the book and highly recommend it:
There’s so much in there, I have to force myself to put it down and prioritize my day’s tasks. Remember all the liberal counter-points when the OLC memos were released and Cheney started coming out about releasing all the info? Thiessen picks those apart, including Ali Soufan’s statements. Apparently Soufan’s own FBI partner disagrees with Soufan, too.
And the amount of intell and captures leading to more intell, leading to more captures as well as plots foiled….can’t be stressed enough! It’s so easy to grow complacent and to be dismissive when nothing happens. The reason nothing’s happened is directly because of the CIA interrogations!
Waterboarding was the key to freeing the jihadis’ willingness to talk! After Zubaydah was waterboarded, he actually thanked his interrogator and said, “You must do this to all the brothers!”. That’s because it lifted a burden from him and he was able to talk freely. Apparently, his religious beliefs required him to resist up to a breaking point. Waterboarding was that breaking point and it freed him of his sense of religious moral obligation to not speak. His particular Islamic teachings allows him to speak from that point forward.
And waterboarding wasn’t used by the CIA (on only 3 terrorists) to extract confessions or get information. It was to obtain cooperation, after which de-briefing can then commence to gather information. So all the talk about “they’ll tell you anything and say anything you want them to say when tortured” is a misunderstanding of the purpose of enhanced interrogations.
But now that the OLC memos have been released and the details of the techniques used, the arguments about whether to use waterboarding or not is moot. Its effectiveness is permanently damaged because not only does al Qaeda know that actual drowning will not take place, but they also know specifically what to train against (guys like KSM have had intensive counter-interrogation training). They now know the limits of just how far we are willing and able to go morally and legally. Before the release, before the press leaks, there was the fear of the unknown and the mystique surrounding the CIA black sites and interrogations. Abd al-Hadi, when captured, didn’t have to undergo enhanced interrogations because he was scared to death by all the rumors and propaganda exaggerating CIA “torture”. Now the power of that mystique is gone; but the CIA reputation and the Bush administration’s reputation on this is still damaged in the court of public opinion belief. And al Qaeda can breathe a sigh of relief and laughter that President Obama has banned “torture”, i.e. enhanced interrogations.
This leaves us blind to developments such as the growth of al Qaeda in Yemen and the underwear bomber. We got lucky.
American lives are at stake and we have hamstrung our CIA due to misguided notions regarding “enhanced interrogations”.
As Thiessen makes clear in his book, backing up his assertions with facts, interviews with key players, and solid research, it isn’t waterboarding, Guantanamo and the Bush Administration that harmed America’s moral standing in the world. What harmed America’s moral standing and reputation are those on the anti-war left who have slandered our CIA, slandered our military, slandered our country with comparisons to Nazis, Soviet Gulags, Pol Pot, Khmer Rouge, Spanish Inquisition, etc.