WaPo: How CIA interrogation turned KSM into an intelligence asset

posted at 6:07 pm on August 29, 2009 by Allahpundit

I don’t know whether to applaud them for publishing this or boo them for dumping it on the day of Teddy’s funeral. In another universe it’d be a narrative-shatterer but in this one it’s noise, for the simple reason that nothing — nothing — will dent the absolutism of the anti-“torture” side. Any fair-minded supporter of enhanced interrogation would concede that it’s morally problematic, that the info extracted may be unreliable, that it’s susceptible to abuse; opponents concede nothing, up to and including (or especially) the fact that sometimes it might just work. They can’t. If they did, they’d have to join the rest of us in honestly struggling with whether the ends of possibly saving innocent lives is justified by the means of inflicting suffering on someone in custody. And given how most Americans would resolve that dilemma — and how Obama’s interrogation team will surely resolve it if, god forbid, the situation ever presents itself — that’s not something they have any incentive to do.

So here’s how this’ll be spun. Unless a detainee sits up on the table mid-waterboarding and coughs up everything he knows, there’s no way to conclude that information given up after enhanced interrogation was the result of that interrogation. The fact that KSM kept his mouth shut good and tight until the CIA got rough with him? Just an amazing coincidence. Correlation does not equal causation; “torture” never works; “ticking bomb” scenarios will never exist in reality; wash, rinse, repeat.

These scenes provide previously unpublicized details about the transformation of the man known to U.S. officials as KSM from an avowed and truculent enemy of the United States into what the CIA called its “preeminent source” on al-Qaeda. This reversal occurred after Mohammed was subjected to simulated drowning and prolonged sleep deprivation, among other harsh interrogation techniques…

Over a few weeks, he was subjected to an escalating series of coercive methods, culminating in 7 1/2 days of sleep deprivation, while diapered and shackled, and 183 instances of waterboarding. After the month-long torment, he was never waterboarded again.

“What do you think changed KSM’s mind?” one former senior intelligence official said this week after being asked about the effect of waterboarding. “Of course it began with that.”…

One former U.S. official with detailed knowledge of how the interrogations were carried out said Mohammed, like several other detainees, seemed to have decided that it was okay to stop resisting after he had endured a certain amount of pressure.

“Once the harsher techniques were used on [detainees], they could be viewed as having done their duty to Islam or their cause, and their religious principles would ask no more of them,” said the former official, who requested anonymity because the events are still classified. “After that point, they became compliant. Obviously, there was also an interest in being able to later say, ‘I was tortured into cooperating.'”

It’s a canard of EIT opponents that non-coercive interrogation will be more effective, but if you take that bold-faced part seriously, that’s simply not true for the sort of hardcore jihadist freak who populates the upper echelons of Al Qaeda. In fact, it suggests that even if they want to talk, they might be religiously enjoined until a certain amount of pressure is applied. That’s a disturbing complication to the moral dilemma here, which of course doesn’t exist for the absolutists.

Read the whole piece, as WaPo also cautions that KSM claimed he gave plenty of false information to interrogators in order to stop the waterboarding. I believe it, but I also believe the details in Stephen Hayes’s post for the Standard about how info from KSM helped the feds bust an Al Qaeda mule in 2003. Read all of that too, as it’s an indispensable gloss on the WaPo piece — bearing in mind, of course, that if you oppose enhanced interrogation now, nothing you’re about to encounter will change that even a tiny bit.

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steve: explaining the difference? Are you presuming we can change a mind?

The triumph of hope over experience.

As AP noted above, we (on our side) understand the moral complexity of this, the problematic nature of what we are doing.

No one likes to do this.

But given the nature of the enemy we face, the situation that they present to us, we struggle to come up with a response that as problematic as it is morally is the best one that we can devise given the greater moral harm that will result if we don’t make the decision.

We decide and act. Our opponents want to ignore the very question and think they can be morally pure by doing so.

SteveMG on August 29, 2009 at 8:49 PM

OK. I’ve had it, and I call Bullshit. Full stop.

The decisions are simple. It’s them or us. If people don’t care, then turn it into a parlor game. Get off on the moral masturbation. Do you feel better wondering if KSM should lose a night’s sleep or be scared out of his wits?

If you are more concerned about KSM, then give up your families and your countrymen.

Make no mistake, however. Those who pretend to sit in moral judgment, i.e the Europeans have little ground to stand on.

We are foolish to lose our moral clarity for the sake of appeasing those who have none. Shame on us. Are so in need of approval? When did this occur?

And I can assure you that while they enjoy bringing us to our heels, they have no misgivings about their treatment of terrorists.

This is all a charade.

Cody1991 on August 29, 2009 at 9:06 PM

“………. for the simple reason that nothing — nothing — will dent the absolutism of the anti-”torture” side.”

It was never “Torture”……….

…….. Enhanced Interrogations, yes.

“Torture” would be cutting off some one’s head…………

……. Enhanced Interrogations would be pouring water on some one’s face, blowing smoke in their face, or giving them the silent treatment, dear God, not that!!!.

Seven Percent Solution on August 29, 2009 at 9:07 PM

My mistake, i was under the impression you were just an ideologue with a contrasting view from mines. Didn’t know you were a racist as well.
I withdraw my bet. Bet still stands with anyone except from this racist idiot.

Afrolib on August 29, 2009 at 8:53 PM

oooh. surprise surprise, The Race Card. News flash, jack, in this day and age–Everyone’s a racist–just ask the POTUS, and the AG, and about half of congress. So, the racist card just isn’t gettin’ no more mileage any more. You questioned my nationality with an idiotic presumption that torture was appropriate, now feign indignation when your sensitive liberties are shat upon.

take a dive jack. That weak sauce won’t play here.

ted c on August 29, 2009 at 9:07 PM

go file an EO complaint, see where it gets you … champ.

ted c on August 29, 2009 at 9:08 PM

Liberal logic fun fact:

Suffocating Mary Jo = totally worth it.

EITs not remotely as bad on terrorists = DISGRACE.


The common denominator?

American lives just don’t matter when the cause is right.

Hawkins1701 on August 29, 2009 at 9:13 PM

Leave it to the left to do things like:

1. Risk millions of lives by giving the enemy details on our interrogation techniques and letting them know publicly that we cannot do anything unpleasant to them so they have no reason to talk.

2. Demand that Hondurans return an unpopular would be dictator for life who was going to rig an election after ignoring the countries supreme court.

3. Seek dialog with dictators like Chavez and Amedinajad who steal elections and supress the free media while denouncing a truly popular democrtatically elected president like Arribe of Columbia who has acted as a real friend to America.

Its all politics and zero principle.

KW64 on August 29, 2009 at 9:14 PM

The decisions are simple. It’s them or us.

Among other items, you’re ignoring laws that limit what the government can do to these detainees.

I guess the government can ignore all the laws? They can do anything?

If you think that we can do whatever we want – anything – to any terrorist – small or big, whether they have information on imminent attacks or not – then you, to be blunt, are as morally bankrupt as those who think we can do nothing to them to prevent future attacks.

SteveMG on August 29, 2009 at 9:29 PM

The decisions are simple. It’s them or us

So, let’s capture Khalid Sheikh Muhammad’s family and threaten to shoot them in front of him unless he reveals information. And when he doesn’t talk, we shoot them?

Us or them and so anything goes?

SteveMG on August 29, 2009 at 9:34 PM

The EIT’s are no worse than what we were put through in survival school. And, among the American military, we would resist to our utmost ability, even under torture. But everyone will get to thier breaking point or, where they have resisted enough where no one would fault them for giving up.

Sven on August 29, 2009 at 9:36 PM

Anything to justify torture here on HA right? Wonder how you all will feel if other people started doing this to our captured soldiers.
Afrolib on August 29, 2009 at 8:13 PM

Hey, Afro, we would consider ourselves rather lucky if all they did was blow smoke in our face rather than sawing off our heads or hanging their mutilated bodies out for all to see. So I don’t get worked up over anything they do to these butchering SOB’s.

silvernana on August 29, 2009 at 10:06 PM

Sucking babies from the womb….YOU BETCHA
Killing them (again) if they survive….EVEN BETTER
Cocaine up Obama’s nose……NO PROBLEM
2 Hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom up the nose of a terrorist…..EVIL.

Pretty much tells you all you need to know doesnt it?

proudteadrinker on August 29, 2009 at 10:12 PM

The way some people get twisted into pretzels over the use of EITs, which are not even close to torture, I would guess that these same people would think that our strategic nuclear arsenal is illegal, being designed to do nothing but kill men, women, children and pets. Are you squeamish children calling for us to unilaterally disarm ourselves of our strategic nukes, too? Are you that detached from reality?

progressoverpeace on August 29, 2009 at 10:29 PM

Who cares. It’s probably propaganda anyway.

We don’t want our president even having a standing army let alone torturing people to fight the war of terror or the war on drugs or whatever adventure he is on.

Spathi on August 29, 2009 at 10:43 PM

Ramadan gift # 6


macncheez on August 29, 2009 at 10:53 PM

Spathi on August 29, 2009 at 10:43 PM

Who was tortured to fight the war on terror.

Johan Klaus on August 29, 2009 at 10:56 PM

Wonder how you all will feel if other people started doing this to our captured soldiers.
Afrolib on August 29, 2009 at 8:13 PM

I guess that you have not been in the military, since you do not know waterboarding is part of combat training, and now a college stunt.

Johan Klaus on August 29, 2009 at 11:01 PM

Afrolib on August 29, 2009 at 8:53 PM

Typical lib stunt; when you can beat the facts, you play the race card.

Johan Klaus on August 29, 2009 at 11:04 PM

So VP Cheney’s interview has not even aired yet and we have this gem from the middle-east

macncheez on August 29, 2009 at 11:07 PM

The ones complaining about “torture” haven’t a clue to what that word really means, and what forms of it have been used against our own men and women.

AW1 Tim on August 29, 2009 at 6:22 PM

That’s why I love my power drill. I hear a power drill being powered up was part of what broke KSM.

From the pictures and his speech, he seems to be all there — no missing or maimed parts, no brain damage, therefore no torture.

As for moral compunction, there’s a person who asked “What would Obama do if a group had Michelle and the kids, and a member of the group, with ways, means, and methods, fell into Obama’s hands? Where would Obama stop in trying to save his beloved wife and children?” With that thought in mind, where would Obama stop if it were someone else’s loved ones? I guess he’d stop quick, which is why neither he nor Holder will ever be Presidential material. Only 3+ more years (I hope)!

unclesmrgol on August 30, 2009 at 12:13 AM

It is easy to distinguish between good and evil. Much more difficult is it to distinguish between degrees of evil or from good and lesser good.

Sorry I can’t attribute the source but the message is clear. Captured non-uniformed combatants in a war zone are not considered POWs under the Geneva rules of war and thus do not fall under those protections.

GnuBreed on August 30, 2009 at 12:25 AM

Johan Klaus on August 29, 2009 at 10:56 PM

Don’t feed it, please.

Del Dolemonte on August 30, 2009 at 1:33 AM

Anything to justify torture here on HA right? Wonder how you all will feel if other people started doing this to our captured soldiers.

Hmmmm…let’s see…second-hand smoke or decapitation…..second-hand smoke or decapitation.

Man, that’s a toughie. I’ll have to think on that one awhile.

xblade on August 30, 2009 at 3:20 AM

Olympia snowe
this is off topic but it has to be posted here. She is going to cave and side with the libs on healthcare. Burn her phones at her offices. Pick a zip code or a town in Maine, call her office saying you represent a group of seniors and let her know she’s out if she votes with the libs. Better yet, take a page out of alinskys rules for radicals and say your moderate democrats against the bill. Stop her now before she caves! Call now!!

texaninfidel on August 30, 2009 at 3:39 AM

Somewhere out there a Broadway musical is being written about KSM. His prison paintings of either exploding suicide bombs as surreal Chagal-esque scenes or fields of yellow dandelions (as part of his “yellow period” in the lingo of the art elite) will be almost as widely sought by impressed collectors as the works of John Wayne Gacy. Some band in which the lead singer wears mascara and the bass player is proudly metrosexual will write an album song (not a single mind you, just part of the overall tone of the opus) about KSM, not really praising, not really condeming…just have to decide for yourself actually-but they’ll explain it on an interview on Fuse…or Logo.

OK, so all that may not happen with KSM per se…but I predict it will happen with terrorists in general.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 30, 2009 at 5:02 AM

You get the feeling that this is paving the way for Obama to reclaim this technique?

drjohn on August 30, 2009 at 8:01 AM

Congress can, indeed, make laws for US soil and for our Armed Forces. By extension with the Laws of the Sea being understood centuries before the founding of the US, those same laws extend to every ship at sea within open reaches of the High Seas. The US Constitution makes refernce to two bodies of work inside the body of the Constitution, itself. One of them is indirect but in the granting of the power of the Navies to the President. That Admiralty power has, at its base, a military part to it, even though our Admiralty Law is but a jurisdiction of US law for our flagged ships at sea or within reaches of the High Seas. That is the implicit power given to the Commander of the Armies and the Navies: the use of our Nation’s assets to protect our ships at sea. I would argue that Extra-Territorial Enclaves, such as Embassies, fall within that jurisdiction and realm of power, as well, but even without that those Enclaves are considered US territorial grants by their host Nations.

The second part is explicitly mentioned as a body of work which had a seminal document when the Nation was founded: Law of Nations or Jus gentium. This goes at least as far back as Bracton in The Laws and Customs of England in a section on what jus gentium is, what is public, that you are responsible for the use of your liberties (and a fascinating look at the change in our system of law where individuals are the source of all law vice the view of Sovereigns granting law to administer liberty) and these all agree that when you are attacked you have the right to defend yourself. To have civil law and its protections, one must be within a Nation State and when one is summoned to justice within a Nation, they must appear or be declared outlaw: outside the protection of the law.

As we have done this with multiple terrorist groups and individuals within these groups, they are considered outlaw by the law, itself. Time and again this shows up in the civil law for criminal statutes – that those who have done major crimes are to show up for justice to be rendered, and in not doing that they are outlaws. Admitting an outlaw back into the law (an inlaw)when he petitions for such is of grave consideration and cannot be taken lightly, particularly when a crime is against the Nation as a whole.

This early understanding is then refined in our understanding of the law and Law of Nations prior to the founding by Emmeric de Vattel in The Law of Nations. In the four centuries between Bracton and de Vattel we have many other fine scholars such as Grotius and Pufendorf who examine the questions of the Law of Nations in regards to the High Seas, War, Peace and the necessity to have these sovereign entities called Nations so as to protect their societies. In Vattel’s work, Book III is given entirely over to War and clearly defines what is Public War, or the wars waged by Nations against Nations, Private War, or war waged by individuals, and the acts of depredation waged by individuals utilizing Private War against a Nation. Why we vest these sovereign entities called Nations with the right of making Public War is clear: we are all put at peril if any member of society can declare war on behalf of our society. Thus the act of making war without sovereign grant and oversight puts one outside all the laws of man: outside of the civil law (although it may have statutes to address this), outside of military law (as these individuals fight under no National sovereign and have no pretext of being a Nation), and outside of the Law of Nations, itself, due to their actions of reclaiming all their natural liberty, positive and negative, to themselves. Pufendorf would call this type of war one waged by Beasts. Blackstone after helping de Vattel write his work, would then include a part on Offences against the Law of Nations in his Commentaries on the English Common Law and would call Pirates to be hostis humanii generis: enemies of all mankind. With that said the act of Piracy, itself, is part of Private War, and all previous writers understood that the action of Private War, itself, made one a Pirate as these were individuals who would not be held accountable to any law.

Our Presidents understood this as Washington made explicit use of powers under the Law of Nations, as did Jefferson against the Barbary Pirates which would include land based operations, so did Jackson when going after Piracy in the Malay region, as did Lincoln when putting for the General Orders to the forces of the Union that lasted from 1863-1895:

Art. 82.
Men, or squads of men, who commit hostilities, whether by fighting, or inroads for destruction or plunder, or by raids of any kind, without commission, without being part and portion of the organized hostile army, and without sharing continuously in the war, but who do so with intermitting returns to their homes and avocations, or with the occasional assumption of the semblance of peaceful pursuits, divesting themselves of the character or appearance of soldiers – such men, or squads of men, are not public enemies, and, therefore, if captured, are not entitled to the privileges of prisoners of war, but shall be treated summarily as highway robbers or pirates.

That is what those waging Private War are entitled to on the battlefield or when captured by our military forces waging war against them. They go beyond simple outlaws, beyond civil law and step into the military realm. When terrorists decide to actually found a Nation, put up a flag, a body of laws, hold themselves accountable, wear uniforms, define a region and population to PROTECT, abide by the Law of Nations, the Laws of War and the Laws of Peace, and actually HAVE prison camps that CAN be insprected by neutral parties, then, and only then, will they gain the right to anything beyond battlefield justice.

I expect to see fewer prisoners taken on the battlefield as civil justice cannot cover the crimes against humanity that terrorists have committed in their war against mankind. That is without exception to any terrorist group: I detest them all. They walked away from civilization, they repudiated having any law over them, they do not act in civilized ways and they are lower than the beasts as the beasts do not have the ability to become civilized. And when these enemies of all mankind are captured on the battlefield, it is far, far too late to give them civil justice as they chose the venue: trial by fire. As individuals they could walk away from their organizations and plead to be let back into civil society for judgment.

Too bad they don’t do that.

They were warned and called to justice.

They chose war.

So be it.

ajacksonian on August 30, 2009 at 9:34 AM

Not the COMFY CHAIR!!!!!

Mini-14 on August 30, 2009 at 9:41 AM

Foot massages to build repoire between beheadings?

Obambi cannot portect this country.

Reality Check on August 30, 2009 at 10:05 AM

SteveMG on August 29, 2009 at 9:34 PM

I do not advocate what they did, but no matter what you believe it certainly made a lasting impression.

During the 1980’s a group of Lebanese jihadists took some hostages from the Soviet Embassy. The terrorists demanded that the Soviets release some prisoners. Spetsnaz (Russian SEALs) found the terrorists families, captured them, and began mailing body parts of the family members to the terrorists. The jihadists promptly surrendered and nobody messed with the Soviets for about 16 years.

txaggie on August 30, 2009 at 10:09 AM

Johan Klaus,

Well the CIA is a secret nontransparent organization so we don’t get to see.

I’ve heard that we tortured over over 100 people to death though.

Spathi on August 30, 2009 at 10:24 AM

We should get rid of the CIA, but if we can’t do that, then at least mandate that it be 100 open books and transparent so that the people can see what skullduggery it’s up to.

Spathi on August 30, 2009 at 10:25 AM

I say, waterboarding is far less serious than what Teddy Kennedy did to Mary Jo Kopechne… and he didn’t even get any actionable intelligence out of his method.

Waterboard KSM again and ask him what he thinks of the comparison.

profitsbeard on August 30, 2009 at 10:36 AM

You are being played.

The Wash Post article doesn’t mention the fact that, after KSM’s most intense torture ended, the CIA started to use rapport-based interrogation with him. I guess they didn’t think that little detail, that the treatment of KSM immediately preceding the time when he was so cooperative and helpful actually adopted a different approach to interrogation, was worthy of mention.

Bill Blizzard on August 30, 2009 at 2:52 PM

I’ve heard that we tortured over over 100 people to death though.

Spathi on August 30, 2009 at 10:24 AM

LOL, where have you “heard” that?

Del Dolemonte on August 30, 2009 at 6:02 PM

Bill Blizzard on August 30, 2009 at 2:52 PM

Yeah, we all know how objective and non biased the NY Fishwrap is.

Del Dolemonte on August 30, 2009 at 6:03 PM

If I read more than 2 WaPo articles, can that qualify as torture?

ted c on August 30, 2009 at 7:06 PM

In all honesty. he looks and acts like an Acorn Volunteer, you know the ones who volunteer for $ 30,000.00 per year and act like protestors when there not signing up Goofy and Mickey. YES WE CAN

bluegrass on August 30, 2009 at 7:46 PM