Yesterday I noted a factually challenged op-ed in the NY Times. Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent, was involved in the interrogation of Zubaydah, the first terrorist to be waterboarded. Mr. Soufan, writing in the NY Times, claimed that "traditional" interrogation techniques were working well with Zubaydah and producing good intelligence until June but the CIA switched to a heavier hand anyway.
However, the Department of Justice Inspector General report on torture devoted a chapter to the Zubaydah interrogation. Per that report (p. 100-111 of 438), the CIA adopted harsh tactics "within days", tactics so harsh (yet redacted) that one of the two FBI agents on the scne described that as "borderline torture" and both agents were recalled by June rather than be associated with the interrogation.
Here is Mr. Soufan:
David Johnston of the NY Times wrote about this on Sept 10, 2006:
So, what is the truth? Did the DoJ Inspector general get it wrong? Or are "traditional" FBI interrogations normally described by FBI agents as "borderline torture", and so harsh that FBI agents are not allowed to participate in them (I see a prisoner in an empty room...)?
Or is Mr. Soufan serving up the sort of dish that a certain audience is sure to savor uncritically? Harsher techniques were introduced in August, but the techniques before then were surely harsh.
Let's sample reaction to the op-ed. Dan Froomkin of the WaPo:
Fight fire with fire and misinformation with misinformation. We can make up stuff faster than they can! Mr. Froomkin includes this warning:
By "these people" he means those on the other side from Mr. Soufan, of course.
Michael Winter at USA Today flagged the Soufan piece but did not assess it.
Spencer Ackerman had the best title (click to see) and looked truth in the face by researching the Zubaydah interrogation, but backed away. From Mr. Ackerman:
[O]thers present [at the interrogation] said he seemed to think he had all the answers about how to deal with Zubayda. Mitchell announced that the suspect had to be treated “like a dog in a cage,” informed sources said. “He said it was like an experiment, when you apply electric shocks to a caged dog, after a while, he’s so diminished, he can’t resist.” [as quoted on page 156 of Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side:]
Well, yet another source confirming that the interrogation was rough from the outset, which is why the FBI left.
Now to be fair and balanced, the Inspector General report says that the two FBI agents got an identification of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of the 9/11 report while caring for Zubaydah in the hospital prior to the CIA involvement, so it is fair enough to say that they were getting results with a traditional technique. However, that traditional technique was not employed up to June, as Soufan claims, nor were harsh techniques only applied beginning in August. Per the IG, the CIA assumed control of the Zubaydah interrogation within "a few days" and made a quick judgment that they needed to "diminish his capacity to resist".
We will see whether anyone cares to have their talking points disrupted.