Is there any end to the lengths that these folks will go to justify torture? Particularly Bill O'Reilly, who was puffed up like a blowfish with poison tentacles over Alan Colmes' assertion that Rumsfeld is correct about the fact that information leading to Osama bin Laden did not emerge from "enhanced interrogation techniques."
In fact, BillO was so bent he just about came over the table at Alan Colmes, who wasn't putting up with the nonsense even for a second.
This question of how the information was obtained -- by torture or standard techniques -- is important for a number of reasons, and not simply because torture apologists want us to believe it's an effective way to extract information. It's important because it reveals the priorities and motives within the Bush administration at different times. In 2003, their focus was on Iraq, not Bin Laden. In 2007, they were still focused on Iraq. In Bush's own words, Osama bin Laden was just someone he didn't think about very often.
So watch Bill O'Reilly go after Alan Colmes in this segment. This is actually round two -- round one was right at the top of the show where Colmes tries to get a word in edgewise while BillO claims Rumsfeld's statements on torture are just wrong. Plain wrong. After Crowley goes through some fairly boring and benign apologetics, BillO comes after Colmes with his fangs out.
The pretzel twists are remarkable. Just remarkable. And really, they're twisting themselves into a terrible corner. From Alan's blog post on the timeline:
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was reportedly waterboarded 183 times, but that took place years before he was at Gitmo, and did not produce information leading to bin Laden’s demise. By the time the name of the courier’s name, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, was learned, it was 2007, and that was years after waterboarding and rendering to black sites had stopped.
[A] administration official told reporters on Sunday that “for years, we were unable to identify his true name or his location.” It took until “four years ago” — 2007, then — for intelligence officials to learn al-Kuwaiti’s real name. By then, President Bush had ceased waterboarding and shuttered the black sites, moving the detainees within them, including Mohammed and al-Libbi, to Guantanamo Bay. In a Monday interview, Donald Rumsfeld said “normal” interrogation techniques were used at Gitmo on those detainees.
If this timeline is correct — and there may be a lot of adjustment to it in the days and years to come — then that means waterboarding and other abusive techniques failed to get the name out of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libbi. A New York Times account has both men claiming not to know even the courier’s nom de guerre, which actually may have counted as a kind of confirmation by omission in this case. That says something about the limits of brute force in interrogation.
In order to believe Peter King, one must believe that the Bush administration extracted the information from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in 2003 or so, when the waterboarding program was at its peak and then sat on it. Not only did they sit on it, but they shuttered the special group tasked with tracking Bin Laden's whereabouts in 2007.
So if one wants to go with Peter King and Bill O'Reilly, the Bush administration extracted information via torture and then sat on it, didn't act, and didn't follow through. Or, if one wants to believe Donald Rumsfeld, no information relevant to Bin Laden's whereabouts was extracted until 2007, when it was done under accepted interrogation techniques, since the waterboarding programs were shut down by then.
Transcript follows (There was a *lot* of crosstalk, so inaccuracies are possible):
COLMES: Actually, it was false information they got through waterboarding. It was actually when they ran the names by this guy that he never heard of them --
BILLO: Source that.
COLMES: Source that?
COLMES: New York Times story yesterday. They did not get -- So in other words, we're going to just discount it because you don't like the New York Times.
BILLO: So let's go right to Attorney General Holder, who was asked this question based upon what The Factor reported last night. This morning, go.
HOLDER: There was a mosaic of sources that led to the identification of the people who led to--
SENATOR (off-camera) I understand that, but were any pieces of that mosaic as the result of enhanced interrogation techniques?
HOLDER: I do not know.
BILLO: Okay, so he doesn't know. He doesn't want to know, because then he'd have to say --
COLMES: And you don't believe the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. You don't believe him.
BILLO: I don't.
COLMES: Why not?
BILLO: Because I have not questioned him.
Breaking in here to say that this made me laugh hard and long, and not just because we're talking about interrogation techniques. But imagine Bill O'Reilly making the claim with a straight face that Donald Rumsfeld isn't truthful because he hasn't questioned him personally. Would that be the same O'Reilly that eats out of Rumsfeld's hand? Or the Bill O'Reilly who tried to shred Scott McClellan with lies in order to bolster the Bush administration (including Rumsfeld?). Or perhaps the Bill O'Reilly who, when he had the opportunity in 2004, threw softballs at Rumsfeld rather than dig at the truth of the Iraq travesty?
Back to the action, which turned fairly hot and nasty fast:
BILLO: If Rumsfeld wants to come on tomorrow night and sit there, I will question him. And when he says something, I will decide whether to believe it or not. I'm not going to take a second-rate secondary source on Rumsfeld.
COLMES: Secondary source? Why would he be a secondary source?
BILLO: Because he didn't answer my direct questions.
COLMES: Only if he talks to you is he a secondary source.
BILLO: He didn't talk to you either. You're taking it from a secondary source.
COLMES: So if anybody tells you something it's okay, totally believable.
BILLO: No, I'm checking it out. I checked King out, which King says is true. I'm not going to take a Rumsfeld from a secondary source from somebody like you (points at Colmes).
COLMES: Well you know that's what Rumsfeld said. You know, this is an attempt on the part of people who want to burnish the reputation of a president who was a terrible president, had a terrible foreign policy --
BILLO: It doesn't have anything to do with him. It has --
COLMES: -- buttress up the Bush administration. That's what you're about.
BILLO: Try to step out of your ideology --
COLMES: This is not ideology. This is not ideology.
BILLO: Of course it is. Your whole life is about ideology.
COLMES: Oh come on, stop that.
BILLO: This is about being Americans. That's what it's about.
COLMES: It's about trying to make Bush look good. You've got --
BILLO: (Editorial comment: He is now shouting and snarling) I could care less about making Bush look good. This is about protecting people and you couldn't care less about that because you're an ideological zealot.
COLMES: Bill, don't call me that. Don't say that to me.
BILLO: It's true.
COLMES: It's not true that I don't care about it. This is absolutely an attempt to make Bush look good to try to justify --
BILLO: That's an insane statement and you've made a lot of them.
COLMES: It's another attempt to justify a terrible president with terrible foreign policy.
Gotta hand it to Colmes. He managed to get his licks in and actually be heard while O'Reilly was blowing smoke, steam, and a steady stream of BS.