05/22/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Jane Mayer Savages Marc Thiessen's Book, 'Courting Disaster,' In New Yorker Review

In the new New Yorker, Jane Mayer has a solidly scathing review of Marc Thiessen's new book, "Courting Disaster". Mayer more or less terms it a revision of history, based upon "slipshod premises" and "outlandish falsehoods," resulting in a book that "is better at conveying fear than at relaying the facts."

This is to be expected. As Mayer points out, Thiessen is "neither a journalist nor a terrorism expert," rather he is a frantic, torture-thrillist PR hack of the highest order, and the book "has become the unofficial Bible of torture apologists."

Read the whole review here.

Mayer, by contrast, is a journalist and a terrorism expert, and her reporting and expertise is on display as she rebuts one of Thiessen's pet claims, that torture paved the way for the foiling of the attempted hijacking attack at Heathrow airport in 2006:

His account of the foiled Heathrow plot, for example, is "completely and utterly wrong," according to Peter Clarke, who was the head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism branch in 2006. "The deduction that what was being planned was an attack against airliners was entirely based upon intelligence gathered in the U.K.," Clarke said, adding that Thiessen's "version of events is simply not recognized by those who were intimately involved in the airlines investigation in 2006." Nor did Scotland Yard need to be told about the perils of terrorists using liquid explosives. The bombers who attacked London's public-transportation system in 2005, Clarke pointed out, "used exactly the same materials."

Thiessen's claim about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed looks equally shaky. The Bush interrogation program hardly discovered the Philippine airlines plot: in 1995, police in Manila stopped it from proceeding and, later, confiscated a computer filled with incriminating details. By 2003, when Mohammed was detained, hundreds of news reports about the plot had been published. If Mohammed provided the C.I.A. with critical new clues--details unknown to the Philippine police, or anyone else--Thiessen doesn't supply the evidence.

Peter Bergen, also a terrorism expert, goes on to note for Mayer that "authorities in London had 'literally wired the suspects' bomb factory for sound and video.'"

It was "a classic law-enforcement and intelligence success," Bergen said, and "had nothing to do with waterboarding or with Guantánamo detainees."

Go ahead and read the whole thing, but lest you gloss over Mayer's criticism of the Obama administration, here it is:

The publication of "Courting Disaster" suggests that Obama's avowed determination "to look forward, not back" has laid the recent past open to partisan reinterpretation. By holding no one accountable for past abuse, and by convening no commission on what did and didn't protect the country, President Obama has left the telling of this dark chapter in American history to those who most want to whitewash it.

Counterfactual: A curious history of the C.I.A.'s secret interrogation program. [The New Yorker]

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