If a dead tree edition of the Washington Post falls on the front porch, and the rest of the media ignores its top investigative story, has it really made a sound?
After former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, the MSNBC bloviators were all atwitter and aghast. Among the canards they shouted back at Cheney's calmly delivered stiletto jabs of facts was "Torture doesn't work! It doesn't, it just doesn't because we say it doesn't!"
As we will see, Matthews, Olbermann, Maddow and Co., will drag any ambiguous quote by a Republican—or someone who once worked for a Republican—into the argument to "prove" their point. They will even quote out of context some portions of documents which disprove their point.
However, they are studiously ignoring a major story by the newspaper they once considered their Holy Writ, the paper that made many of them want to be leftist "journalists" and fight the power in the first place.
Here are some key early paragraphs from the Washington Post story, How a Detainee Became an Asset by Peter Finn, Jody Warrick and Judy Tate:
"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.
"KSM, an accomplished resistor, provided only a few intelligence reports prior to the use of the waterboard, and analysis of that information revealed that much of it was outdated, inaccurate or incomplete," according to newly unclassified portions of a 2004 report by the CIA's then-inspector general released Monday by the Justice Department."
Now, let's go to MSNBC this week.
Here was Chris Matthews' first chance to comment on the issue. We've already covered how he and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz were slaughtered by former Congressman Duncan Hunter's insistence that they answer the question that if waterboarding is torture, why are they okay with doing it to American soldiers and airmen, and the attempt to censor Hunter in the wake of the interview.
But in the first show after the Washington Post obliterated the "waterboarding doesn't work" argument, here's the same old stuff from these two informed intellects:
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: …And we cannot continue the downward spiral of—of torture, and make that the—the policy of—and law and—and acceptable practice in—in this country. It's simply unacceptable.
And, with all due respect, Duncan, to say that those—those—that information that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed revealed as a result was a direct result of water-boarding, even Frances Townsend, the former director of the White House Office of Homeland Security, disagreed with that on TV this week, and said that you couldn't really make a direct connection that the vice president tried to make.
And, in fact, the FBI interrogator who questioned him before the CIA came in and water-boarded him and tortured—and used torture got information that was incredibly valuable in two days, instead…
HUNTER:…I—we talked to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for a long time, and we water-boarded him on multiple occasions. Now, if talking nice to him would have elicited that information, I'm sure that he would have put that off…
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: … to require—well, I—I think that—that, when the investigation is completed, it's quite possible that you will be proven wrong.
The FBI investigator that questioned him before the CIA stepped in and tortured him got more valuable information within a couple of days, as opposed to the weeks and weeks in which they got virtually nothing, that you can't even tie the information that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gave to the CIA after they tortured him to those—those—those practices.
No one is above the law…
Keith Olbermann has also let his WaPo subscription lapse, preferring to conduct almost nightly interviews with writers from the Marxist magazine The Nation. Here, he obscures the facts of the CIA report on Monday's countdown.
OLBERMAN: More of the madness of Dick Cheney. The lukewarm torture investigations?
DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I think it's an outrageous political [stunt] that will do great damage, long term, to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs.
OLBERMANN: Like breaking the law, ruining the country's reputation, needlessly torturing detainees who are already talking…. There remains no proof, no evidence in the last batch of documents revealed that torture saved anyone—even people on the right-wing have said it's not there. The Bush liaison to homeland security said you might be able to infer it from what is written there but it's not in the report.
Then Rachel Maddow picked up the ball and pranced with it. Her report on Cheney's interview borders on Saturday Night Live parody.
MADDOW: There are certain basic elements that define life here on planet Earth. In general, we humans need air to breathe, water to survive, and we need facts in order to win arguments. The vitality of facts may not be among the essential elements of life on another planet within our galaxy planet Cheney. The former vice president reemerged yesterday after weeks in presumed orbit somewhere to give an interview on FOX News, offering his response to the just released CIA report which concluded that we don't really know how effective torture was—or if you reside on planet Cheney–
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I think the evidence is overwhelming, that the EITs were crucial in getting them to cooperate and that the information they provided did, in fact, save thousands of lives and let us defeat all further attacks against the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The evidence is overwhelming. I think so.
You know, the actual evidence from the CIA review of the torture program in 2004 doesn't say that at all. Quote, "There is limited data on which to assess their individual effectiveness," talking about interrogation techniques.
In the case of Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times in one month, the CIA says, quote, "It is not possible to say definitely that the waterboard is the reason for Abu Zubaydah's increased production, or if another factor, such as length of detention, was the catalyst."
But on fact-free planet Cheney, that counts as overwhelming evidence. That issue of Abu Zubaydah's interrogation led to another fact-free but still iron-clad Cheney assessment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: It shows that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah provided the overwhelming majority of reports on al Qaeda. And both of them were uncooperative at first, that the application of enhanced interrogation techniques, specifically waterboarding, especially in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is what really persuaded him he needed to cooperate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So says the transmission from planet Cheney.
You know, if only we could hear from someone who is actually there at that Abu Zubaydah interrogation. If only we could hear from, say, the FBI agent who first interrogated him. If only he could tell us what actually happened there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALI SOUFAN, INTERROGATED ABU ZUBAYDAH FOR FBI: And we interrogated him using intelligence interrogation methods, within the first hour, we gained important actionable intelligence.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: You say, on the instructions of the contractor, harsh techniques were introduced which did not produce results as Abu Zubaydah shut down and stopped talking, correct?
SOUFAN: Correct, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh. Enhanced interrogation techniques made him shut down and stop talking, says the man who was there. Back here on planet Earth, the facts about that interrogation are the exact opposite from news from planet Cheney…
Maddow, in fact, followed up this snark-fest with an interview, not of a WaPo reporter, but with frequent MSNBC guest Chris Hayes, of the Marxist magazine The Nation, which is from a planet where where Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs were framed, and Vietnam is better off today.
So, Rachel, here is a transmission from Planet Earth, where THE impeccably liberal icon of investigative reporting actually analyzed the whole CIA report and reported on its findings:
"The debate over the effectiveness of subjecting detainees to psychological and physical pressure is in some ways irresolvable, because it is impossible to know whether less coercive methods would have achieved the same result. But for defenders of waterboarding, the evidence is clear:Mohammed cooperated, and to an extraordinary extent, only when his spirit was broken in the month after his capture March 1, 2003, as the inspector general's report and other documents released this week indicate.
"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."
Or how about this, Rachel, if you were honest enough to quote John Helgerson, the CIA Inspector General completely…
"John L. Helgerson, the former CIA inspector general who investigated the agency's detention and interrogation program, said his work did not put him in "a position to reach definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of particular interrogation methods."
"Certain of the techniques seemed to have little effect, whereas waterboarding and sleep deprivation were the two most powerful techniques and elicited a lot of information," he said in an interview. "But we didn't have the time or resources to do a careful, systematic analysis of the use of particular techniques with particular individuals and independently confirm the quality of the information that came out."
Oops! The Post story continues:
"After his capture, Mohammed first told his captors [including Rachel Maddow's favorite FBI interrogator] what he calculated they already knew."
"KSM almost immediately following his capture in March 2003 elaborated on his plan to crash commercial airlines into Heathrow airport," according to a document released by the CIA on Monday that summarizes the intelligence provided by Mohammed. The agency thinks he assumed that Ramzi Binalshibh, a Sept. 11 conspirator captured in September 2002, had already divulged the plan.
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.' "
For the Washington Post, the most galling aspect of this is undoubtedly that only one television media outlet has given much play at all to their balanced and hard hitting piece of investigative journalism—Fox News.
What a revolting development