2011/05/16

Yoo's story

The fellow who provided the legal justification for torture, John Yoo, makes the claim that:
Sunday's success also vindicates the Bush administration, whose intelligence architecture marked the path to bin Laden's door. According to current and former administration officials, CIA interrogators gathered the initial information that ultimately led to bin Laden's death.
Unfortunately for Yoo, this claim was directly addressed by Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA, who denies it:
Mukasey, whose assessment was quickly embraced by the right, claimed waterboarding Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced the first grain of intelligence that got the OBL ball rolling — the name of bin Laden’s favorite courier. McCain described Mukasey’s remarks as “false.”
And Panetta’s correspondence bolster’s McCain’s judgment. Indeed, the CIA director makes clear that “no detainee in CIA custody revealed the facilitator/courier’s full true name or specific whereabouts. This information was discovered through other intelligence means.”
I did find the following statement from Yoo amusing:
President George W. Bush, not his successor, constructed the interrogation and warrantless surveillance programs that produced this . . . actionable intelligence. For this, congressional Democrats and media pundits pilloried him for allegedly exceeding his presidential powers and violating the Bill of Rights.
It wasn't just an allegation. The intelligence architecture that failed to get bin Laden also exceeded G.W. Bush's powers as President and violated the Bill of Rights. Even if Yoo were correct and the information obtained via torture was decisive in getting bin Laden, those two statements would remain true.
Yoo asks a hypothetical question:
Imagine what would have happened if the Obama administration had been running things immediately following 9/11.
Okay. Osama bin Laden would not only still have been found and eliminated, but the US would not have followed several false leads.
Further, the narrative the AP tells now makes it even more clear how ineffective the CIA program was. The AP’s sources specify that KSM did not admit he knew al-Kuwaiti while being waterboarded. But that sort of dodges the whole issue: in response to his torture, according to KSM, he made up false locations for OBL. At the same time he was shielding information that could lead to OBL–and he continued to shield it under “standard” interrogation (again, it’s a pity FBI’s KSM expert never got to interrogate him). And then al-Libi, when he was in the CIA’s interrogation program, managed to shield that same information even after the CIA recognized it was important.
The CIA program failed to do one of the most important things it set out to do, break through detainees’ efforts to hide OBL.
The blogger Marcy Wheeler goes through the evidence and concludes that waterboarding produced more false leads than it did actual intel.
Yoo points out, correctly, that Obama has gone back on several promises that he made at the beginning of his term, but “demands of the real world” had nothing to do with Obama's retreats. The problem there is that Obama is fundamentally a Blue Dog Democrat who doesn't share progressive priorities and is not prepared to fight for them.
Don't know about whether bin Laden could have been taken alive or not. My concern would have been not so much that he would have shot at those who wished to detain him, but that he might have had a button he could have pressed that would have destroyed all of his computer data. Difficult to say which is more valuable, bin Laden alive or his computer data.
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Addendum: Rick Santorum says his knowledge of the case is superior to that of the CIA Director:
"I mean, you break somebody, and after they're broken, they become cooperative. And that's when we got this information. And one thing led to another, and led to another, and that's how we ended up with bin Laden," said Santorum.
Erm, slight problem with that. People are not horses and getting them to give up knowledge is not like getting them to carry you around on their backs. When the guy throws up his hands and says "All right! *sob* All right, I'll tell you" that does NOT mean that he'll then give you accurate information. Our real-life experience with Abu Zubaydah was that he did the whole "I give up" speech, after which he told his interrogators false things that he knew full well were not true. Problem is, US agents had to go out into the field in order to check these stories out and they then came back a few days later to report that "Yup, we were given another made-up story!!!!"
Update: Ooh! THAT's gonna leave a mark!
Ron Paul may be the wackiest candidate in the GOP field. But for pure, blind stupidity nobody beats Santorum. In my 20 years in the Senate, I never met a dumber member, which he reminded me of today.

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