05/21/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

New York Times Accepts Premise That Torture Memos Reveal Too Much, Despite Their Own News Reports

One of the key lines of so-called "reasoning" among those who have objected to the release of the torture memos is that now that we've let the cat out of the bag, we can never use those techniques again, because now, Al Qaeda knows about them. The idea, I suppose, is that somehow, the "terrorists" have missed all the previous discussions, hearings, articles, reports, campaign promises to end the practice, legislation, opinion pieces, popular entertainments that featured torture, and that now, the release of these memos will finally -- FINALLY -- demystify the fact.

And now, the New York Times is playing along with this weird notion, pretending that the matter of torture being an open secret is an unsettled debate. One of those "depends on who you talk to" things:

Democrats on Sunday played down the importance of the release of the documents, saying that most of the information was already public.

That comes after a litany of critics express their disapproval of tipping off the terrorists. The only counter to these claims is presented as above, as a Democratic party claim. Another way of countering it, of course, is to say that these critics are factually wrong, and as Greg Sargent notes today, it's not like the New York Times has to go on a scavenger hunt for evidence.

So now Democrats are "saying" that much of the info was already public. But again, it is an indisputable fact that most of the info about the torture techniques has already been made public in a leaked Red Cross report and in other places.

As it happens, this info can be found in the paper's own archives. The Times published an article earlier this month detailing the revelations in the Red Cross report -- and even linked to the report itself!

But, you know, just in case the New York Times has entered some new era in which they cannot believe that they have actually been reporting news, all this while, we could also take the word of an actual interrogator. Here's Matthew Alexander, explaining to the Washington Post that terrorists are pretty much aware of our torture regime:

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.

So, let's stop pretending that this was some sort of well-kept secret.

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