ABC's Brian Ross and NBC's Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday night each
listed some al Qaeda plots uncovered via CIA interrogations, but both
balked when it came to vindicating former Vice President Dick Cheney on
whether "enhanced interrogation techniques" (EITs) led to information
which prevented attacks.
"Nowhere in the reports...does the CIA ever draw a direct connection between the valuable information and the specific use of harsh tactics," Ross declared on World News in citing reports Cheney requested be released. NBC's Andrea Mitchell cited only Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and related how "administration officials say there is no way to know whether the same information could have be obtained from him without waterboarding or whether he would have given it up sooner had he been handled differently."
On FNC, however, The Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes, quoting from the just-released 2004 report by CIA Inspector General John Helgerson, pointed out how even it noted regarding Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, the terrorist behind the USS Cole attack, "following the use of EIT's, he provided information about his most current operational planning as opposed to the historical information he provided before the use of the EIT's." Hayes asserted: "I mean, it doesn't get clearer than that. So we can debate the morality, we can debate whether this was torture. We can't debate any longer about whether this was effective."
Hayes, during the panel segment on FNC's Special Report with Bret Baier:
I think you can daw direct lines from the enhanced interrogation techniques used to the information that they provided, and forgive me, indulge me for reading one of these about al Nashiri, who was the plotter of the USS Cole attack. "Following the use of EIT's," these techniques, "he provided information about his most current operational planning as opposed to the historical information he provided before the use of the EIT's." I mean, it doesn't get clearer than that. So we can debate the morality, we can debate whether this was torture. We can't debate any longer about whether this was effective.
Hayes, a Senior Writer at The Weekly Standard, provided more examples in a Tuesday (late Monday night) post on the magazine's blog  on parts of the report which have eluded other journalists:
...And what about 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Shaykh Mohammad? More coincidence? From page 91:
On the other hand, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, an accomplished resistor, provided only a few intelligence reports prior to the use of the waterboard, and analysis of that information revealed that much of it was outdated, inaccurate or incomplete. As a means of less active resistance, at the beginning of their interrogation, detainees routinely provide information that they know is already known. Khalid Shaykh Muhammad received 183 applications of the waterboard in March 2003.
The section immediately following this overview of KSM's pre-waterboard disclosures is redacted. But flip back a few pages in the IG report, to page 87, and we learn the details of KSM's post-waterboard intelligence. KSM provided so many leads to other terrorists and plots that the IG described him as "the most prolific" source of information among the detainees. So, what did he tell us?
He provided information that helped lead to the arrests of terrorists including Sayfullah Paracha and his son Uzair Paracha, businessmen who Khalid Shaykh Muhammad planned to use to smuggle explosives into the United States; Saleh Almari, a sleeper operative in New York; and Majid Khan, an operative who could enter the United States easily and was tasked to research attacks [redacted]. Khalid Shaykh Muhammad's information also led to the investigation and prosecution of Iyman Faris, the truck driver arrested in early 2003 in Ohio.
Let's review. Abu Zubaydah gave up some information before the use of EITs. But "since the use of the waterboard...Abu Zubaydah has appeared to be cooperative," and gave up even more intelligence. Al Nashiri provided mostly historical information in the short time before EITs were employed. "However, following the use of EITs, he provided information about his most current operational planning..." And "accomplished resistor" Khalid Shaykh Muhammad provided mostly useless information before the application of EITs. Afterwards, he "provided information that helped lead to the arrests of terrorists" - so much information, in fact, that he was regarded as the "most prolific" intelligence source. Reasonable people can - and do - disagree about the morality of using EITs. But only the most accomplished resister could continue to claim that they were not effective.
From the Tuesday, August 25 World News on ABC:
BRIAN ROSS: ...It was clear today that the partisan battle lines have been drawn over the CIA, led on one side by the former Vice President, who has long been the chief defender of the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques. DICK CHENEY, FILE FOOTAGE: They were legal, essential, justified, successful and the right thing to do.
ROSS: It was at Cheney's request that the CIA made public yesterday two top secret reports that said the detainee interrogations were pivotal. "Detainees have given us a wealth of useful information on al Qaeda," the report says, "thwarting a number of al Qaeda operations," including a proposed 9/11 style attack on Los Angeles, on London's Heathrow airport and the capture of a leading southeast Asia al Qaeda leader who reportedly had 70 operatives ready to carry out terrorist attacks in the West.
Nowhere in the reports, however, does the CIA ever draw a direct connection between the valuable information and the specific use of harsh tactics. So, Charlie, there's just enough for both sides to argue about, while CIA officers in the field are left to figure out just what is expected of them.
From the NBC Nightly News:
ANDREA MITCHELL: ...So who right? The new documents reveal that 30 of the detainees - a third of those held in the CIA secret prisons - were subjected to the questionable practices. Cheney says the tactics "saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks." His proof - in part, this memo, describing how 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who was water boarded 183 times, admitted to a series of plots: One, in late in 2001, to crash a hijacked airliner into the tallest building on the U.S. west coast, another in early 2002 to send al Qaeda operative and U.S. citizen Jose Padilla to set off bombs in apartment buildings in an unspecified major U.S. city and a never before disclosed plan in 2003 "to employ a network of Pakistanis to target gas stations, railroad tracks and the Brooklyn bridge in New York."
But administration officials say there is no way to know whether the same information could have be obtained from him without waterboarding or whether he would have given it up sooner had he been handled differently. In fact, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told the International Red Cross in 2006 he lied to fool his questioners.
TOM PARKER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: He made stuff up to deliberately mislead his interrogators and make them stop and took pleasure in the fact that the United States had probably wasted money responding to these fabrications.
MITCHELL: An argument experts say that may never be resolved. But tonight, John McCain who opposed the Bush/Cheney interrogation policies, criticized the Attorney General's decision to investigate CIA interrogators, creating more political headaches for the White House.
- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center