About that Library Tower Plot....
In the wake of the release of OLC memos authorizing torture, Bush apologists are frantically trying to show that torture worked. Former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post that claimed that torturing Khalid Sheik Mohammed had foiled a second plot to use airplanes to attack the highest skyscraper on the West Coast, the Library Tower.
The author of the post then goes on to cite Timothy Noah in "debunking" Thiessen's piece.
Primarily at issue is the timeline of having captured KSM in March of 2003, whereas the cell leader of the Library Plot was captured in 2002, leading to the assumption that the entire plot was then foiled- even though other terrorists within the cell were still roaming free to plot and plan and carry out future marching orders.
Well, here I cite Thiessen in debunking the debunkers, namely going directly after his critic, Timothy Noah:
In his post, Noah calls the West Coast plot “Thiessen’s claim” and Anderw Sullivan calls it “Thiessen’s LA Tower Canard.” What these two fail to appreciate is that the story of how enhanced interrogation broke up the West Coast plot is not my story — it is the official position of the intelligence community.
In my Washington Post piece, I was citing the very documents which President Obama released, which quote the CIA saying that interrogation with enhanced techniques “led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ‘Second Wave,’ to ‘use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.” The memo released by Obama goes on the explain that “information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discovery of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemmah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the ‘Second Wave.’ ”
Again, those are not my words. That is the position of our intelligence community.
And not just in the released memos. In his September 2006 speech revealing the existence of the CIA program, President Bush described specifically how the interrogation of KSM led to the capture of the key operatives in this attack. This was the most carefully vetted speech in presidential history — reviewed by all the key players from the individuals who ran the program all the way up to the director of national intelligence, who personally attested to the accuracy of the speech in a memo to the president. And just last week on Fox News, former CIA Director Michael Hayden said he went back and checked with the agency as to the accuracy of that speech and reported: “We stand by our story.”
In numerous subsequent speeches, President Bush said that the West Coast plot was disrupted because of the CIA program. Each of those speeches was carefully reviewed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — and each time the DNI provided the White House with a classified memo stating that the contents of the speech was accurate and did not compromise sources and methods. So the Director of National Intelligence has repeatedly affirmed the accuracy of the statement that the West Coast plot was disrupted because of the CIA program. And Noah himself acknowledges in his post a CIA spokesman affirmed the accuracy of the story.
So bottom line: The intelligence community says it is so.
In his blog, Noah cites the fact that Fran Townsend, the Bush administration’s homeland-security adviser, told reporters in a February 2006 press briefing that a key cell leader in the West Coast plot was arrested February of 2002. This, Noah points out, is before KSM came into CIA custody and underwent enhanced interrogation. He also notes Townsend said that after the cell leader’s capture other cell members “believed” that the plot was not going forward.
I hate to break it to Noah, but this does not refute the fact that KSM’s interrogation disrupted the West Coast plot.
It is true that a key cell leader in the West Coast plot was detained in February 2002. According press accounts, his name was Marsan bin Arshad. What is also demonstrably true is that the captured terrorist did not lead us to the members of the cell tasked with carrying out the West Coast plot. Indeed, when KSM was captured 13 months later — in March of 2003 — almost all of the key operatives in the plot were still at large and operating with impunity.
This is what happened next:
· * In March of 2003, the CIA captured another key operative in the West Coast plot — a terrorist named Majid Khan.
· * When KSM was captured later that same month, he knew that Khan was in CIA custody — and assumed that Khan had given us the details of the West Coast plot.
· * KSM refused to provide any information about active plots, telling his interrogators: “Soon you will find out.”
· * After undergoing enhanced-interrogation techniques, KSM revealed that Khan had been told to deliver $50,000 to individuals working for a terrorist named Hambali — the leader of al-Qaeda's Southeast Asian affiliate Jemmah Islamiyah and KSM’s partner in developing the West Coast plot.
· * CIA officers then confronted Khan with this information from KSM. Khan confirmed that the money had been delivered to an operative named Zubair. He provided both a physical description and contact number for this operative — which led to the capture of Zubair in June 2003.
· * Zubair then provided information that led to the capture of Hambali in August 2003, along with another key operative, a JI terrorist named Bashir bin Lep (aka “Lillie”).
· * Told of Hambali's capture, KSM then identified Hambali's younger brother Rusman Gunawan (aka "Gun Gun") as Hambali's conduit for communications with al-Qaeda, and the leader of the JI cell that was to carry out the West Coast plot. This information led to the capture of “Gun Gun” in September 2003 in Pakistan.
· * Hambali's brother then gave us information that led to a cell of 17 JI operatives — the Guraba Cell — that was going to carry out the West Coast plot.
All of these operatives were captured because of information gained from the interrogation of KSM using enhanced interrogation techniques.
To buy Noah’s argument that the plot was over before KSM’s capture, you would have to accept that premise that if Zubair … and Hambali … and Lillie … and Gun Gun … and the 17-member Guraba cell were all left at large and unmolested, they would not have eventually carried out the West Coast plot.
No, I'm sure today they'd have given up and opened up a falafel stand in a Kansas City small town to never plot again.
Thiessen goes on to point out the other information extracted from KSM due to enhanced interrogations.
What is appalling, is the announcement to our enemies on what our limitations are (note that waterboarding hasn't been done since 2005) and what to expect. It's similar to taking nukes off the table and saying, "We will never use our nuclear arsenal under any circumstances."
From Gordon Cucullu's Inside Gitmo, pg 205:
Military analyst Chuck Nash makes the point that "uncertainty is what scares people the most. If the prisoner knows what the U.S. can and cannot do, much of the uncertainty is removed and thus the element of fear that can be an instrument that wears down the prisoner much sooner than cold and lack of sleep. It is ludicrous that we publish what we are prepared to do. It exposes critical elements to our enemies that they use in their training."
Compound this endangerment of our national security with what appears to be a politically motivated witch-hunt by obfuscating the truth via half-truths:
His administration’s selective and highly prejudicial release of only partial information about CIA interrogations clearly was designed to gin up outrage against former Bush officials. The release of the information was a pure political hit job masquerading as an act of openness.
The administration ignored near-uniform pleadings by respected intelligence professionals to keep the interrogation descriptions classified, yet refused to declassify the evidence that the interrogations saved countless American lives. Obama highlighted the alleged sins while withholding (often directly redacting) the context, the justifications, and the practical benefits gained. Then his administration went even farther. Not only did it refuse to declassify the exculpatory intelligence, but also it selectively and misleadingly edited a memo by its own national intelligence director about the program.
As reported by the New York Times’ Peter Baker, intelligence director Dennis Blair wrote a memo that included these lines: “High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country.” Baker then reported: “Admiral Blair’s assessment that the interrogation methods did produce important information was deleted from a condensed version of his memo released to the media last Thursday. Also deleted was a line in which he empathized with his predecessors who originally approved some of the harsh tactics after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”
That last deleted line read as follows: “I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past,” he wrote, “but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time….”
Without Baker’s reporting, those highly important judgments by Obama’s own appointee would have been buried from public view, thus stacking the deck against those whom Blair would absolve.
The Bush Administration was accused of being the most secretive in American history and of being divisive; the Obama Administration claims it will govern as the most transparent and bipartisan.
At this rate, it will go down in history as the most deceptive and partisanly divisive.
Cross-posted at Flopping Aces