I just want to provide a few more quotations from the same article about Khalid Sheik Mohammed that Sonny quoted earlier. I really never thought I’d read anything like it in the Post or any other leading American paper. Here goes:
These [accounts] 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intelligence reports prior to the use of the waterboard, and analysis of that information revealed that much of it was outdated, inaccurate or incomplete,” according to newly unclassified portions of a 2004 report by the CIA’s then-inspector general released Monday by the Justice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.
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.
I am anti-torture and, like John McCain, I think the Bush administration made a lot of bad calls on the subjects of interrogation and detention. But many other critics have assumed there is no real debate to be had because the alleged benefits of harsh interrogation are just a delusion conjured up by Cheney & Co. to defend the indefensible.
That is why this article in the Post is so unusual. It tells us that the tradeoffs between liberty and security are real. Of course, that point is hardly original. Yet few mainstream publications have granted that the actions taken by the Bush administration reflected a serious, evidence-based evaluation of how best to satisfy our needs for both liberty and security.
There is still plenty of room to argue that those actions were wrong. But it is no longer sufficient to dismiss them with contempt and assume that the debate ends there.