Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Did Waterboarding Save Los Angeles?

Sean Hannity on his show tonight states perhaps a half-dozen times that the interrogation by waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammad prevented an al Qaeda plot to fly a plane into a building (the Library Tower) in Los Angeles. "It's in the memo." Not one of his guests challenged him.

Hannity's right. It is in the memo, as Marc Thiessen, a former Bush staffer, points out in The Washington Post.But it's not true. Timothy Noah in Slate demolishes the claim.First of all, according to Noah, flying planes into buildings really wasn't a viable option for al Qaeda after September 11, 2001. But what completely demolishes this claim is the chronology:

In a White House press briefing, Bush's counterterrorism chief, Frances Fragos Townsend, told reporters that the cell leader was arrested in February 2002, and "at that point, the other members of the cell" (later arrested) "believed that the West Coast plot has been canceled, was not going forward" [italics mine]. A subsequent fact sheet released by the Bush White House states, "In 2002, we broke up [italics mine] a plot by KSM to hijack an airplane and fly it into the tallest building on the West Coast." These two statements make clear that however far the plot to attack the Library Tower ever got—an unnamed senior FBI official would later tell the Los Angeles Times that Bush's characterization of it as a "disrupted plot" was "ludicrous"—that plot was foiled in 2002. But Sheikh Mohammed wasn't captured until March 2003.
The absolute falsity of the claim, however, will not prevent Sean Hannity from repeating it as fact another hundred times.

Update: Philip Klein in The American Spectator has More on the Los Angeles Plot . It appears that while the plot was disrupted in 2002, some of the people involved may have been arrested in 2003 based on information from KSM. I would never claim that torture has never produced any information, only that it produces more bad information than good.


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