Waterboarding Worked, Part 3: The WaPo Falls for the Lazy Argument on the Timing Issue of the Library Tower Attack
Today’s Washington Post runs a story about the effectiveness of harsh questioning. I consider the key issue to be the CIA claim that waterboarding helped the U.S. stop an attack on the Library Tower in Los Angeles. Here is the WaPo on that issue:
A number of officials have questioned the viability of the plot in the wake of the changes in airport security after Sept. 11. And President George W. Bush, in a speech in 2007, said the plot was broken up in 2002, before Mohammed’s capture in Pakistan on March 1, 2003.
Let’s place to one side the laughable notion that we should be reassured by our wonderful airport security, and focus on the timing issue raised here. This lazy approach to the issue has been accepted at face value by Tim Noah, Andrew Sullivan, Radley Balko, and any number of other people predisposed to argue against the style of interrogation conducted by the Bushies.
But as I argued in this post, the timing does indeed work, because according to the memo that makes the claim, even after the initial plot was disrupted, there was a second cell devoted to the same murderous goal:
(Click to enlarge)
The existence of the other cell was documented in a Los Angeles Times article from October 2005, which typically downplayed the importance of arresting the cell because the plot was still in its early stages. (Apparently if we had stopped 9/11 in its early stages, that would not have been a notable success.)
According to the memo, when KSM was first questioned without the use of harsh techniques, he would say nothing about plots in motion other than: “Soon, you will know.” If Obama had his way, we would have learned about the Library Tower plot, not through waterboarding, but when it happened.
UPDATE: Marc Thiessen has an important update that is completely consistent with my analysis, and provides convincing detail on why Noah and Sullivan et al. are dead wrong about this. (h/t daleyrocks.)