NYT reveals name of KSM’s chief interrogator — against CIA’s wishes

posted at 8:15 pm on June 21, 2008 by Allahpundit

Too bad, because an otherwise fascinating story about the scramble to build a counterterror apparatus after 9/11, the merits of coercive vs. non-coercive interrogation, and the stings that nailed Abu Zubaydah and KSM is going to be submerged in a debate over their decision to publish the lead interrogator’s name against his wishes and those of CIA chief Michael Hayden. Here’s the obligatory editor’s note justifying the decision. Quote:

After discussion with agency officials and a lawyer for [the interrogrator], the newspaper declined the request, noting that [the interrogator] had never worked under cover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news stories and books. The editors judged that the name was necessary for the credibility and completeness of the article.

The Times’ policy is to withhold the name of a news subject only very rarely, most often in the case of victims of sexual assault or intelligence officers operating under cover.

Read the piece and you’ll see that credibility and completeness have nothing to do with it. It’s not a story about him; he’s just the springboard to explore the themes I mentioned earlier. They could have as easily used his initials, an alias, or no name at all and the article wouldn’t suffer a bit. As for credibility, that’s easy: Just make a deal with Hayden that in return for withholding the name he’d agree to go on record and vouch for the fact that the identity of the agent as known to the Times was correct. Did they even offer? Doesn’t sound like it. The real motive here in disclosing his name, quite obviously, is to avoid setting a precedent by which they’d feel obligated to withhold names every time a government agency asked them to. That’s fine in the abstract, but it can be handled on a case by case basis. If your subject is known to be an antagonist of some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, and his former boss is telling you he has reason to believe it’d be better if his name wasn’t divulged, why not give him the benefit of the doubt?

Here’s a better question. The Times mentions in the story that the interrogator refused to be interviewed for it; everything in it is based on interviews with his colleagues — some of whom, do note, aren’t named. If he had cooperated and talked to them, would they have agreed not to identify him in return? There’s no way to tell but I suspect so, which makes the decision to name him essentially … punitive. Especially the gratuitous detail about who his current employer is and what he’s up to these days.

As I say, though, don’t let it stop you from reading the piece. The part about Poland being the 51st state is alone worth the price of admission. Exit quotation:

Mr. Mohammed, according to one former C.I.A. officer briefed on the sessions, “would go through these emotional cycles.”

“He’d be chatty, almost friendly,” the officer added. “He liked to debate. He got to the stage where he’d draw parallels between Christianity and Islam and say, ‘Can’t we get along?’ ”

By this account, [the interrogator] would reply to the man who had overseen the killing of nearly 3,000 people: “Isn’t it a little late for that?”

Update: Commenters in the Headlines item are comparing the Times’s stance here to its stance on Plame, but Plame was apparently undercover when her identity was leaked whereas the interrogator here was, allegedly, never covert. The objection isn’t that the Times published classified info; it’s that they published sensitive info, against the CIA’s wishes, for no apparent reason.


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“More to the point, it makes the decision to name him identical to what the Times charges the President with doing to Joe Wilson.”

Yes, but the charge was false.

davod on June 22, 2008 at 9:22 AM

We’ll stipulate that the NYTimes are anti-American scumbags.

But having said that, this is the frickin CIA they’re screwing with.

This is the one agency that should have the balls to deal surreptitiously with these type of adversaries.
there it is on June 22, 2008 at 8:42 AM

Unfortunately, there are Clintonista holdouts/factions within the CIA that would do anything (including damaging national security and risking others’ lives) to embaress the Bush administration.

Plame, Wilson, and Larry Johnson were all part of this group, and there are more of them still within the CIA -too well entrenched and to hard to immediately replace that any CIA director is going to have problems with punishing leaks.

Wethal on June 22, 2008 at 9:28 AM

But having said that, this is the frickin CIA they’re screwing with.

This is the one agency that should have the balls to deal surreptitiously with these type of adversaries.

there it is on June 22, 2008 at 8:42 AM

In the Plame affair, elements within the CIA were using the Times and the MSM to discredit the Bush administration. Here again, the Times may be the tail to the CIA dog. Not saying it is, don’t know enough about this. But I’m not at all convinced that the Times is taking on the CIA

JiangxiDad on June 22, 2008 at 9:30 AM

Wethal on June 22, 2008 at 9:28 AM

Sorry. Should have read your comment before I posted.

JiangxiDad on June 22, 2008 at 9:31 AM

JiangxiDad, I think the anti-Bush factions in the CIA are still using the Times. That the war in Iraq is going better, and we may end up with a friendly, and more or less functioning Arab democracy in a strategic area, is too much for the Anti-Bush factions, as well as the Times.

Bush’s war must fail, or at least it must incite Muslim anti-American hatred that can be blamed on Bush.

Wethal on June 22, 2008 at 9:43 AM

The objection isn’t that the Times published classified info; it’s that they published sensitive info, against the CIA’s wishes, for no apparent reason.

Of course the Times has a very long history of publishing classified info as well. And they have no problem in keeping the names of the leakers out of the news, even though they are complicit in criminal behavior by doing so.

Do people still read this rag?

flenser on June 22, 2008 at 9:53 AM

The Times mentions in the story that the interrogator refused to be interviewed for it; everything in it is based on interviews with his colleagues — some of whom, do note, aren’t named.

It’s all about control. The Times believes that they should be the ones to decide what information you should know, and what information you should not know.

flenser on June 22, 2008 at 9:56 AM

Do people still read this rag?
flenser on June 22, 2008 at 9:53 AM

al Qaeda does.

Wethal on June 22, 2008 at 10:09 AM

It’s all about control. The Times believes that they should be the ones to decide what information you should know, and what information you should not know.

The paper of record dontcha know.

Squid Shark on June 22, 2008 at 10:13 AM

The war within…

During the Clinton administration, the CIA and the State Dept. were loaded up with Liberal operatives. If fact, a “grand plan” had been put into motion prior to the Clinton years; a plan that included activist Judges acting as operatives. Think about what we do know now about how the effects of this grand plan have become part of our everyday lives. In California, the ninth circuit has taken over law making, pushing a hard core leftist agenda while going around the will of the people. Gays are now issued marriage licenses despite having lost this debate in election after election. Remember prop. 13? I’ll get to my point.

If it weren’t for the new media (talk radio, Fox News, and bloggers, what would we have learned about the grand plan to create a route around the will of the people. Look at the Democrat protocol with choosing a candidate for potus. Much has been revealed during this campaign about the “super delegate” procedure. A path around the people, with the MSM running the job of shaping the news. Getting closer to my point.

Would we have ever known about the despicable behavior of the NYT (MSNBC, et al) if it weren’t for the new media? I’d say of coarse not. All Democrats and some Republicans are going to make a huge effort to “KILL” the new media. The effort has already been brought to the floor of Congress, and will gain steam every month from this point forward. I must remind my Republican friends of what Senator Lott stated http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1851439/posts
openly and seemingly without reservation. Putting a death grip on the new media will be top priority for the Democrats come January of 2009, and they will have several Republicans at their side. Our country, our Constitutional rights, our way of life; a path around the will of the people. HotAir will be silenced if our elected politicians have their way. The NYT knows what we do not know. Yes, the NYT is bleeding right now, but I’m convinced they know their future is bright, as they are very much included in the big picture.

Making slaves out of American people; mindless lil people just as most Hollywood films show the future to be. Watch the “Fairness Doctrine” gain power in the months to come. Watch as the plan unfolds.

Keemo on June 22, 2008 at 10:20 AM

Keemo on June 22, 2008 at 10:20 AM

Even if conservative talk radio was eliminated, they’d have to be able to control the internet to stop the insurgency. Rush et.al. would still get their message out. Not only that, the ad revenue from websites like Rush’s and Sean’s is now HUGE, so ironically, there’s less of a need for talk radio than ever before.

I agree with everything you say. However, I don’t think it will be at all easy for them to accomplish–even with controlling the 3 branches.

JiangxiDad on June 22, 2008 at 10:25 AM

This (RAG) and all the people who work there are scum. This is a disgrace .I would say use the paper to line the bottom of your bird cage but that would make the birds throw up!!!

thmcbb on June 22, 2008 at 10:25 AM

thmcbb on June 22, 2008 at 10:25 AM

btw, in the age of the internet, and global warming and green awareness etc, just where do they get off cutting down trees to print their crap?

But if they went to an all electronic version, they’d have to fire lots and lots of their own lib people and lose some influence among those who don’t get their news online.

You see, the ends justify the means for them, even when it’s off message. Whores.

JiangxiDad on June 22, 2008 at 10:31 AM

My firewall has suddenly began to refuse connections to NYT. It is complaining that it is blocked or something.

Can’t seem to fix it either. I’m gonna miss the old girl…

Limerick on June 22, 2008 at 10:34 AM

If the publishers ignore our government security requests, and choose a different agenda, why would anyone assume the “facts” of the article are true? Stories comprised of details provided by unnamed sources are junk food for the brain.

I wouldn’t spend 5 seconds reading anything the Times invents.

T J Green on June 22, 2008 at 10:35 AM

JiangxiDad on June 22, 2008 at 10:25 AM

I never would have believed that the highest court in America would give U.S. citizen rights to the very people that are killing our sons & daughters, by giving the enemy access to our court system where anything can happen. There is talk in DC about government regulation of the internet (including the taxing of)… It starts with talk, then comes the brainwash of the sheep, then comes the path around the people by way of activist Judges. We have been watching this dynamic take place even while Republicans had full control of the power. I, for one, am not putting anything past these creatures from hell.

Big brother is getting much bigger and more powerful by the month.

Keemo on June 22, 2008 at 10:50 AM

This Plan has a long and somewhat traceable history. What the domestic useless idiots are looking for is a return of the FDR days…complete control of all three branches with no checks on their power. This program has been infolding for 80 years and the puppiteer is our old nemesis, the Global Communist.

el Vaquero on June 22, 2008 at 11:20 AM

Keemo on June 22, 2008 at 10:50 AM

Don’t forget the military. It’s red state. Don’t forget the South. It doesn’t take the kind of sh*t the rest of us blue state pu**ies do. And don’t forget the evangelical christians. Neither do they.

If it all comes to that, the end of what we have enjoyed for 200 years has arrived, but the new situation is unlikely to be a liberal theocracy.

JiangxiDad on June 22, 2008 at 11:22 AM

So will Bush have the nuts to go after the NYT for treason, or espionage, or perhaps something similar?

NO, he is trying to create a “new tone”.

Spartacus on June 22, 2008 at 11:29 AM

Don’t forget the military. It’s red state.

Eh, depends.

Squid Shark on June 22, 2008 at 12:06 PM

Squid Shark on June 22, 2008 at 12:06 PM

Wasn’t referring to JAG

JiangxiDad on June 22, 2008 at 12:11 PM

My only question is who keeps holding on to NYT stocks?

Egfrow on June 22, 2008 at 3:36 PM

As far as Plame goes, there is some question as to whether she was actually undercover. In order to qualify to be covered by the Intelligence identities Protection Act of 1982, she would have had to have served outside the USA undercover sometime in the 5 years proceeding an outing. She hadn’t.

William Teach on June 22, 2008 at 4:18 PM

Just One Minute covered every bit of the Plame affair. Plame was NOT covert. She and her cohorts displayed what the CIA has become in self interested preservationism, the nemesis of the Constitution. They should be dismantled/absorbed by the FBI along with the icing on the intelligence cake, Homeland Security. Of course, what should be does not equate to what is or what will be.

maverick muse on June 22, 2008 at 4:54 PM

This is so interesting. So the NYT believes it’s really important to name names so that the credibility can be assessed. Huh. Why didn’t they follow that rule when they ran that smear article on Sen. McCain alleging that he was close to a lobbyist in a way that could have potentially been misinterpreted as having an affair?! Those sources were only facing political ostracism from being named not murder. What does naming the interrogator ad to the credibility of the story? The man wouldn’t talk with the NYT so his personal credibility isn’t at stake. The Times didn’t feel they could otherwise prove they knew who the interrogator was?

Jill1066 on June 22, 2008 at 4:55 PM

Is this paper still in business?

pat on June 22, 2008 at 5:13 PM

Not only should this agent fear for his life from terrorists but as the article stated, he previously worked against big drug cartels. I would be just as afraid of these vicious cartels. I can’t believe they even went as far as to name his current employer! I feel for his family and am sick to my stomach that a “journalist” would be so callous.

Aggie85 on June 22, 2008 at 5:37 PM

Is this paper still in business?

pat on June 22, 2008 at 5:13 PM

If you had bought New York Times stock in 1980, nearly 30 years ago, you would have made a profit of exactly 0%.

Pretty impressive! And they just paid their quarterly divident (following a quarterly loss) and moved into very fancy new Manhattan digs.

They are in the destruction of value business. And you know how that ends up. It is only a matter of when, not if. Everyone knows it. It is a sinking ship. It cannot remain as it is.

Only a Soros type can rescue it, but as currently constituted, it no longer seems to be in the long-term profit making business, their protestions to the contrary notwithstanding.

JiangxiDad on June 22, 2008 at 5:47 PM

Oh, so let me frigging see: so it’s ok to broadcast this guy’s name all over the world in the press, allegedly because he wasn’t “under cover”. However, when the name of left-leaning ambassador Plame’s wife, Valerie, is mentioned BYanother leftist, FORthe same reason (she wasn’t a covert or clandestine operative), THAT‘s something to literally be made a federal case out of, and a crime against Humanity.

This is why I have to fight with myself to not just outright hate liberals. (I have lost that fight, however, in trying not to hate the liberal media.)

Complete and total bullcrap. And nobody’s going to do anything about it.

Virus-X on June 22, 2008 at 8:01 PM

Don’t forget the military. It’s red state.

Eh, depends.

Squid Shark on June 22, 2008 at 12:06 PM

Looking at CNN 2004 exit polling:

Military Voters:

Bush: 57
Kerry 41

Non-Military
Bush 49
Kerry 50

So, it was military voters that gave Bush the edge in 2004′s popular vote (and presumably electoral vote). I’m actually surprised the numbers weren’t more lopsided*…but then again, I’m surprised a man like Kerry can live with himself.

*Admittedly exit polling has to be taken with a large grain of salt. The Military Times in pre-election polling got a result of 72/17 Bush/Kerry from active duty personnel.

18-1 on June 22, 2008 at 9:22 PM

can the nyt be waterboarder just for fun ????

Mojack420 on June 22, 2008 at 9:36 PM

You know, the real story here is… The CIA director personally called the New York Times and asked them to withhold this analyst’s identity.

Did George Tenet ever call Novak or his editors to stop him from writing about Plame? No, he did not.

So either that means the CIA cared less about Plame’s identity than they did about this interrogator, or George Tenet was just an idiot of a CIA director.

I’m sure many here would agree it could blow either way – or be a combination of the two…

Seixon on June 23, 2008 at 5:58 AM

I will not read the NY Slimes or even click on their website.

The editors are scum and the paper is pure propaganda.

dogsoldier on June 23, 2008 at 6:43 AM

Commenters in the Headlines item are comparing the Times’s stance here to its stance on Plame, but Plame was apparently undercover when her identity was leaked whereas the interrogator here was, allegedly, never covert.

This is a difference of degree, not of type. The problem with disclosing the identity of undercover agents is not primarily that it ruins their effectiveness (although that is a consideration,) but rather that it exposes that individual and everyone nearby to danger. The general discretion of the CIA regarding the locations of detention and the identities of personnel, effectively prevents enemies from learning the identity of the interrogator unless they have an inside source; the Times provides that inside source, and thus exposes the interrogator to reprisals from which he’d probably be safe otherwise. It may not be as egregious a violation as the outing of Plame would have been (if the government had actually done that); but it’s the same violation.

philwynk on June 23, 2008 at 11:00 AM

Hanes needs to pick this guy up for t-shirt commercials.
Just look at that!

johnnyU on June 23, 2008 at 11:29 AM

Difference between Plame and this unfortunate CIA op: When Plame got outed, she did Vanity Fair photo shoots. When this guy got outed, he’s now under threat of being shot.

Thanks NYTimes!

spmat on June 23, 2008 at 2:08 PM

Treasonous behavior. This would have been dealt with quickly and severly not so very long ago.

Lunkinator on June 23, 2008 at 2:30 PM

ATTENTION AL QUEDA:

New York Times 620 Eighth Avenue New York, NY 10018

http://maps.google.com/maps?client=safari&rls=en-us&q=620%20Eighth%20Avenue%20New%20York%2C%20NY%2010018

Eight principal load bearing columns on a 32/32 grid.

noblejones on June 23, 2008 at 9:19 PM

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