Why Don’t They Claim al-Nashiri’s Waterboarding Worked?

As I noted last night, Liz “MiniCheney” Cheney very pointedly avoided claiming that al-Nashiri provided important intelligence as a result of being waterboarded. In a non-sequitur response to Norah O’Donnell’s assertion that waterboarding is torture, MiniCheney offered this as rebuttal to O’Donnell’s point (at 2:15).

There were three people who were waterboarded, and two of those people are people who gave us incredibly important and useful information, information that saved American lives after they were waterboarded, both Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah.

That’s pretty shocking, coming as it does from someone trying hard to claim waterboarding is effective. The implication is that Rahim al-Nashiri did not give such information after he was waterboarded.

But it turns out the 9/11 Commission actually used more information from al-Nashiri in its report than it did from Abu Zubaydah (though still not a lot), a total of 16 references–and the Commission may have included more information gathered immediately after waterboarding. There’s some confusion about when al-Nashiri was captured (the contemporaneous public announcement placed it in early November 2002, whereas the ICRC lists October 2002 without the specific date; the ICRC also reports that al-Nashiri was allegedly interrogated by Dubai agents for a month before being handed over to the Americans), and we have no reporting on precisely when al-Nashiri was waterboarded. Nevertheless, al-Nashiri gave information that was used in the 9/11 Report closer to his capture date than AZ and as close as a few of the KSM reports. And reports were generated consistently in all four months after he was captured:

November 20, 2002: One citation
November 21, 2002: Two citations (one contradicted by later reporting)
December  26, 2002: Three citations (one labeled “may not be true”)
January 14, 2003: One citation
January 27, 2003: One citation
January 28, 2003: One citation
February 10, 2003: One citation
February 20, 2003: One citation
May 21, 2003: One citation
February 21, 2004: Four (probably) citations, all presumably in response to 9/11 Commission questions

Thus, if al-Nashiri was waterboarded in any of the four months following his capture, information collected in the same month made it into the report. (Note, much more of this testimony was corroborated than AZ’s or KSM’s.)

In other words, they did get information from al-Nashiri, at least in the 9/11 Report, more than they did from Abu Zubaydah. And while we can’t be sure, it may have been collected using waterboarding. But for some reason, MiniCheney carefully stops short of claiming they got information from al-Nashiri.

Now, there are several possible reasons why MiniCheney doesn’t want to claim that waterboarding worked with al-Nashiri. Read more

What Explains Commander Lippold’s Newfound Impatience on the Cole Prosecutions?

Eight and a half years ago, Commander Kirk Lippold’s ship, the USS Cole, was attacked by Al Qaeda. As Richard Clarke explained it in Against All Enemies, the Cole should never have been in Yemen.

For over three years the CSG had been concerned with security at the ports in the region that were being used by the U.S. Navy. Steve Simon had written a scathing report on security he discovered at the Navy pier near Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Sandy Berger had sent the report to the Secretary of Defense. I had personally crawled around and climbed up into sniper positions at the U.S. Navy facility in Bahrain because of repeated reports that al Qaeda planned to attack there. The Defense Department had fixed the problems in Bahrain and the UAW, but bases weren’t the only points of vulnerability. When the USS Cole was attacked, we were shocked to learn that the Navy was even making port calls in Yemen.

Mike Sheehan, then the State Department representative on the CSG, had summed up our feelings: "Yemen is a viper’s nest of terrorists. What the fuck was the Cole doing there in the first place?"

By late November, the Yemenis provided information to the US that preliminarily tied the attack to Al Qaeda; by late December, the case became stronger. Yet Clinton held back from a response because, the 9/11 Commission reported, CIA and FBI never conclusively tied the attack to Al Qaeda and besides it didn’t seem like Clinton wanted to know anyway.

Clarke recalled that while the Pentagon and the State Department had reservations about retaliation, the issue never came to a head because the FBI and the CIA never reached a firm conclusion. He though they were "holding back." He said he did not know why, but his impression was that Tenet and Reno possibly thought the White House "didn’t really want to know" since the principals’ discussions by November suggested that there was not much WhiteHouse interest in conducting further military operations against Afghanistan in the administration’s last weeks.

The Clinton Administration refused to do what Clarke and Sheehan pushed to do: to retaliate militarily. Read more