Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Thursday, January 28, 2010

  CIA torture pitchman admits he scammed the public

Remember John Kiriakou, the former CIA officer who popped up in December 2007 to tell America how wonderfully effective – and expeditious – the CIA’s torture of the prisoner Abu Zubaydah had been? Kiriakou said that he knew for a fact that Zubaydah revealed all manner of dangerous al Qaeda plots after being waterboarded a single time.

It was music to the ears of right-wing torture apologists…though Kuriakou’s most important assertions couldn’t be squared with the other information we already had about Zubaydah’s torture (in particular that it had generated all manner of unreliable allegations).

Now Kiriakou is back, hawking a book. Guess what? On the next to last page, he admits that it was all a campaign of misinformation.

At the time of his first interview on ABC News, I argued that Kiriakou’s account was full of bizarre contradictions because “it is an elaborate game of spin gone badly awry”.

If you listen to this long, multi-part interview at ABC, you can’t help but notice the mountain of BS that Kiriakou piles up. It’s quite clear that what he’s attempting to do is to provide cover for the CIA and, perhaps, the Bush administration.

For example, he admits just enough of what we already know about the facts of this program, while larding it with slabs of self-justifying circumstantial assertions, as to slip into “evidence” a range of unproven and, on closer inspection, dubious propositions. All of these dubious propositions tend in one direction, to excuse or mitigate any of the kinds of charges that are being directed against those who engaged in, acquiesced in, or ordered the torture of prisoners in CIA custody.

It was a crude campaign of misinformation. The US news media (ABC’s Brian Ross and Richard Esposito especially) conducted themselves deplorably in propagating this nonsense uncritically.

Indeed, as Jeff Stein documents, when evidence subsequently trickled out that Kiriakou wasn’t actually present in Thailand during Zubaydah’s interrogation, and that the prisoner was in fact waterboarded at least 83 times, ABC began to backtrack quietly by posting an endnote on line to its report – in which Kiriakou tried to explain his false assertions.

"When I spoke to ABC News in December 2007 I was aware of Abu Zubaydah being water boarded on one occasion. It was after this one occasion that he revealed information related to a planned terrorist attack. As I said in the original interview, my information was second-hand. I never participated in the use of enhanced techniques on Abu Zubaydah or on any other prisoner, nor did I witness the use of such techniques."

So there you are, dear reader, just in case you happened to go back recently to the original 2007 ABC report to see what revisions had been made to it. Quietly. But don’t go looking for the videos of the interview with Kiriakou, which ABC promoted like mad back in 2007. ABC has taken those videos down.

And Kiriakou himself still isn’t very forthcoming. At the very end of his new memoir he admits offhandedly that he didn’t know what he was talking about when, with the imprimatur of various news outfits, he presented himself as having first-hand information about the effectiveness of torture. It was all just hearsay that he was embellishing:

"I wasn't there when the interrogation took place; instead, I relied on what I'd heard and read inside the agency at the time."

For what it’s worth, Kiriakou now claims that he himself was duped into becoming the frontman for a CIA misinformation campaign. Believe that at your peril. There were many accessories to torture, and Kiriakou can’t be eager to be placed in their ranks.

A harvest of shame all around.

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