In his deeply revealing interview on Fox News last night, former vice-president Dick Cheney was asked which plots were foiled using torture, thereby saving thousands of lives. The first and only case he cited last night was the “West Coast” “Second Wave” plot against buildings in Los Angeles. He’s cited this many times before. And here’s the thing: It’s a lie. It’s not true. And we now know it’s not true, because the CIA itself admitted it last year, after a decade of lying about it.
Cheney hasn’t read the report, although he knows it’s “full of crap.” What that tells you about this man’s integrity and honesty I’ll leave to you. But here is what he hasn’t read.
The CIA, from the beginning, cited this case as a critical piece of evidence for the efficacy of torture, in all its briefings to officials. To take one random example, here is a legal memo from Steven Bradbury, at the OLC, conveying what the CIA was telling him:
So torture gave us the existence of the Guraba cell, which foiled the plot. The CIA told Bush the exact same thing:
This was a lie. How do we know? Because CIA operational cables and internal documents tell a different story. The FBI arrested two operatives in August 2001, including a “suspected airline suicide attacker” and that provided the leads for further identification of al Qaeda operatives involved in the Gubara version of the attack. Another plot on similar lines by some Malaysian nationals, coordinated by KSM, was foiled when one Misran bin Arshad was arrested in January 2002, revealing, by the way, that the attack had already been canceled the month before. Arshad spilled the beans after legal and non-coercive interrogations. So, according to the CIA, torturing KSM gave us nothing that we didn’t already have; and agents deduced that what intelligence they did get from KSM about this was because he knew that Arshad had already been captured – not because he had been tortured.
And the CIA admitted as much last year:
The CIA’s June 2013 Response acknowledges that “[t]he Study correctly points out that we erred when we represented that we ‘learned’ of the Second Wave plotting from KSM and ‘learned’ of the operational cell comprised of students from Hambali.” Here’s the full section:
But notice that they cannot quite admit what they have admitted. They accept that they misled the president, but called it “imprecision,” rather than untruth. Then they bizarrely continued to “assess this was a good example of the importance of intelligence derived from the detainee [torture] program.” Then they threw in another claim – that the capture of another figure, Hambali, had been critical to foiling the plot as well, and that his capture was a function of the torture program. But the CIA’s own documents show that Hambali’s capture was unrelated to to the program. After a while, when you read this report closely, you cannot avoid seeing that they’re flailing around. They’ve got nothing but bluster and bluff. And when you watch the amazing Cheney interview, you realize he has nothing else either. All he has is bluff. But what he said last night was wrong. The CIA itself has said it was untrue.
We have a former vice-president going on cable news and continuing to say things in defense of the CIA that the CIA itself admits are untrue. This is his p.r. strategy: asking the American people who they are going to believe: Dick Cheney or their own lyin’ eyes? More on the Cheney interview to come.