Former Bush speechwriter and new Washington Post hire Marc Thiessen once tried to claim that torturing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed foiled a plot to attack Los Angeles. Except, it turned out that the Bush administration had said that plot was foiled in 2002, and KSM was captured in 2003, as Tim Noah wrote in Slate last year. Thiessen has also argued that torturing Abu Zubaydah led to the capture of Jose Padilla -- directly attacking the credibility of FBI interrogator Ali Soufan, who claims to have obtained all of the usable intelligence from Zubaydah without torturing him.
Thiessen has made this claim on several occasions. Though he didn't always attack Soufan's credibility, he has twice called Soufan a liar. From October of last year, responding to the CIA inspector general report on interrogations:
This report proves, once and for all, that FBI interrogator Ali Soufan lied about his role in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.
Earlier that summer, Thiessen had called Soufan's claim "a flat lie."
However, according to the newly released Office of Professional Responsibility report, it's Thiessen who is wrong. Again it seems, Thiessen's claim couldn't be true without, as Jason Linkins put it, altering the "space-time continuum." Michael Isikoff reports:
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.” (The use of enhanced interrogations was not authorized until Aug. 1, 2002 and Zubaydah was not waterboarded until later that month.) “ Yet Bradbury relied upon this plainly inaccurate information” in two OLC memos that contained direct citations from the CIA Effectiveness Memo about the interrogations of Zubaydah, the Justice report states.
This not only acts as a refutation of Thiessen's claim about Zubaydah but calls into question the effectiveness of torture in general, since it was one of the examples Steven Bradbury had used to claim that the "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" had worked.
Everyone makes mistakes, but given the centrality of these new facts to Thiessen's arguments about torture, he should acknowledge them. Although perhaps smearing Soufan is just another example of how, as Fred Hiatt put it, Thiessen "has strong views and he argues them forcefully."
-- A. Serwer