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Are the Kiriakou revelations disinformation?

Posted by Charles II on December 11, 2007

ABC News interviewed a CIA interrogator, John Kiriakou, who said up front that waterboarding is torture. That admission led many on the center-left to conclude that Kiriakou was a whistleblower stepping forward with great new revelations. But the interview left me uneasy. As I commented at No Quarter:

There were elements of Kiriakou’s story that gave me pause.
1. He waffled on whether the school about to be bombed was British or American, the kind of detail that tends to stick.
2. Why was a very high level operative being used to run a solder gun?
3. Kiriakou claims that only two people were waterboarded, but we know that it was done at Abu Ghraib (and, in fact, has been done since Vietnam), suggesting it was a common practice.
4. Minor: Kiriakou isn’t sure if Abu Zubaydah was telling the truth about how long he had been at the hideout.

Here’s another issue. Kiriakou gives the Administration two important points: the claim that waterboarding was rare and the claim that it saved lives. The ABC report could, it seems to me, just as easily be a true story or disinformation put out by the Administration.

Today, both Larry Johnson and Damozel at BuckNakedPolitics gave me reason to lean toward the tentative conclusion that this is disinformation. Larry Johnson agreed that the media spin that this showed that torture worked was propaganda and pointed out that Kiriakou never witnessed the waterboarding, a point I had not picked up. Damozel pointed out three more things:

  • According to Ron Suskind, Zubaydah’s information was of limited value (via KDrum here)
  • Zubaydah was of questionable mental health and in no way fit Kiriakou’s characterization of him as a top level operative (ibid).
  • Kiriakou knew that waterboarding would result in false confessions, but believed that it was successful for Zubaydah

More and more, I wonder whether the reason Kiriakou is not under arrest is because he was dispatched to do a job: to concede the obvious (that waterboarding is torture) but sell the American people on the idea that it works and saved lives.

Update: Laura Rosen has an interesting take. Her first impression was that Kiriakou was a CIA surrogate, but her contacts at the Agency say no.

3 Responses to “Are the Kiriakou revelations disinformation?”

  1. MEC said

    Just a few minutes ago, Keith Olbermann discussed this story and made the point that Kiriakou didn’t actually know what information was extracted from Zubaydah that saved so many lives.

    I agree that it’s probably disinformation — or rather, flat-out lies told to justify the practice.

    I think we frogs need to check the water temperature sooner rather than later.

  2. Charles said

    I also lean toward thinking it’s disinformation, but check Laura Rosen (link in Update, above)

  3. More on John Kiriakou

    Posted by Damozel | According to ABC News, the CIA is pretty upset with John Kiriakou. (ABC) They reportedly aren’t going to prosecute him for revealing classified information, cooler heads having prevailed, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t upset a…

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