For some time, former Vice President Dick Cheney has insisted that the declassification of various CIA memos will prove once and for all that the Bush administration's torture regime was successful at keeping America safe. But as Michael Isikoff reported over the weekend, the recently-released report from the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility contains disclosures that "could prove awkward for Cheney and his supporters."
The report provides new information about the contents of one of the never released agency memos, concluding that it significantly misstated the timing of the capture of one Al Qaeda suspect in order to make a claim that seems to have been patently false.
In essence, the CIA insisted that the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah "provided significant information on two operatives, Jose Padilla and Binyam Mohammed, who planned to build and detonate a 'dirty bomb' in the Washington DC area." As anyone who's followed the case knows, charges against Mohamed were dropped, he was released from detention and returned to the United Kingdom, where the Court of Appeal found that he had been treated to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities."
As for Padilla, the problem for Cheney and supporters is one of timing:
But as the Justice report points out, this was wrong. "In fact, Padilla was arrested in May 2002, not 2003 ... The information '[leading] to the arrest of Padilla' could not have been obtained through the authorized use of EITs."
Over at the Plum Line, Greg Sargent says, "This also appears to vindicate claims by former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan, who said he obtained all the crucial info from Zubaydah through non-enhanced methods." It also appears to be bad news for Marc Thiessen, as well.
But there are complications: what if the information was obtained through the unauthorized use of torture? Let's recall that in my conversation with Abu Zubaydah attorney Brent Mickum, he contended that his client was subjected to torture in the period between his original capture and the CIA receiving guidance from Jay Bybee.
UPDATE: As a reminder, the International Committee of the Red Cross reports that a wide variety of torture techniques were used on Abu Zubaydah, and others. In that report, Zubaydah told interviewers that he was subjected to waterboarding, and that it caused "considerable pain" because he had "undergone surgery three months earlier." It's frustratingly inspecific, but Abu Zubaydah is known to have been operated on soon after his capture on March 28, 2002, and Bybee didn't advise C.I.A. interrogators until July 24th of the same year.
Justice Report: CIA Memo Used by Cheney to Justify Waterboarding Was Inaccurate [Newsweek]
PREVIOUSLY, on the HUFFINGTON POST:
Abu Zubaydah Attorney On Thiessen Hire: It 'Really Angers Me'