Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Waterboarding the Mentally Ill

Michael Hayden, director of the CIA, testified before Congress today that the United States waterboarded three terrorism suspects in 2002 and 2003: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks; Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the Al Qaeda operative who allegedly planned the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, and Abu Zubaydah.

Who is Abu Zubaydah? On April 9, 2002, speaking to the Connecticut Republican Committee, President Bush had this to say about him:

The other day we hauled in a guy named Abu Zubaydah. He's one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States. He's not plotting and planning anymore. He's where he belongs. (Applause.)

Journalist Ron Suskind, however, found a different assessment of Abu Zubaydah among the experts. According to Suskind (in The One Percent Doctrine), the FBI's principal Al Qaeda expert, Dan Coleman, told one of his superiors, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality." And yet he was tortured--or waterboarded, for those who, unlike Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, don't mind a little water up their noses--and his coerced testimony was thought to be trustworthy. In fact, Director Hayden told reporters today that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah provided a quarter of the CIA's information on Al Qaeda derived from human sources.

FBI Director Robert Mueller was also present at today's hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Someone should have asked him if his agency concurred with the CIA in its assessment of the utility of waterboarding the mentally ill.