The headline of an Oct. 10 CNSNews.com column by Terry Jeffrey asks, "Is Waterboarding Ever Right?" then scares and misleads to suggest it is.
Jeffrey starts by serving up two hypotheticals to compare. The first is of a soldier who shoots a suicide bomber; the second, which suggests Jeffrey has watched way too much "24" and has worn out his copy of "Black Sunday," offers up that "al-Qaida cell has hidden a bomb inside the stadium where tens of thousands will gather that day for the Super Bowl," learned when "A caller in Pakistan dials a number in the United States. A U.S. spy satellite intercepts the call; an NSA computer records it," though "the computer has no warrant and no probable cause to believe this call will produce evidence of a crime." Jeffrey then tells of "Madame President" receiving purported counsel on the situation from "Attorney General Charles Schumer," who says, "They intercepted this guy's call without a warrant," and "National Security Advisor Sandy Berger," who "nods knowingly."
But Jeffrey doesn't mention that the FISA law under which such calls would be monitored allows the government to receive warrants retroactively.
Jeffrey then writes:
So much for hypotheticals.
Water-boarding is an interrogation technique in which a piece of plastic is placed over a subject's face and water is poured on it. The subject feels as if he is drowning, although he is not. According to a report for ABC News by Brian Ross, Richard Esposito and Martha Raddatz: "Its most effective use, say current and former CIA officials, was in breaking Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, known as KSM, who subsequently confessed to a number of ongoing plots against the United States."
But by focusing only on a single news report on Mohammed that said what Jeffrey wanted to hear, he conveniently ignores questions about the effectiveness of coercive interrogation techniques -- including waterboarding -- used on Mohammed and others. Media Matters noted that an Aug. 13 August New Yorker article on the CIA's interrogation program reported that "even supporters" of the CIA's interrogation and detention program "acknowledge that much of the information that coercion produces is unreliable" and that "[w]hen pressed, one former top agency official estimated that 'ninety per cent of the information was unreliable.' " During Mohammed's interrogation, the article adds, he "claimed responsibility for so many crimes that his testimony became to seem [sic] inherently dubious":
In addition to confessing to the [Daniel] Pearl murder, he said that he had hatched plans to assassinate President Clinton, President Carter, and Pope John Paul II. Bruce Riedel, who was a C.I.A. analyst for twenty-nine years, and who now works at the Brookings Institution, said, "It's difficult to give credence to any particular area of this large a charge sheet that he confessed to, considering the situation he found himself in. K.S.M. has no prospect of ever seeing freedom again, so his only gratification in life is to portray himself as the James Bond of jihadism."
Jeffrey concludes by innocuously describing the waterboarding of Mohammed as "pouring water on Mohammed's head."