As more information comes out on the illegal torture program carried out by the Bush administration, the more hollow Dick Cheney and his daughter's rh
June 17, 2009

As more information comes out on the illegal torture program carried out by the Bush administration, the more hollow Dick Cheney and his daughter's rhetoric becomes. Rachel sat down with the ACLU's Ben Wizner to discuss the recently released detainee statements which showed we got wrong information from torture. The ACLU has more on the case here. Rachel summed it up better than I ever could with this statement:

They can no longer brag about torturing Abu Zubaydah. Now, it appears they can no longer brag about torturing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed either. But not only was it illegal, but it was also ill-advised, self-destructive, counterproductive.

Sadly, I don't think it will get Liz Cheney off my television screen. She and her father have little use for allowing something like a few facts to interfere with their lying.

Maddow: But we begin tonight with some breaking news about the Bush administration‘s self-titled “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which are increasingly widely known as torture. Tonight, thanks to an ACLU lawsuit, we have obtained less redacted CIA transcripts released from the tribunals at Guantanamo. These are the parts of the transcripts in which prisoners explained how they had been treated since being in U.S. custody.

In addition to revealing some new details of what was done to the prisoners, this newly-revealed testimony refutes one of the Bush administration‘s still-used justifications for their torture program.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Once in our custody, KSM was questioned by the CIA using these procedures. And he soon provided information that helped us stop another planned attack on the United States.

RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The information we‘ve collected from the detainees, from people like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, has probably been some of the most valuable intelligence we‘ve had in the last five years.


MADDOW: The claim from the Bush administration has been that by torturing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, they got actionable intelligence that saved American lives. Well, in these new less redacted transcripts, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed describes a very different scenario. During his 2007 hearing at Guantanamo, in very broken English he says, quote, “I make up stories, just location, Osama bin Laden, where is he? I don‘t know. Then he torture me. Then I said, ‘Yes, he‘s in this area.‘”

In other words, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed says he lied when he was tortured. “I make up stories.” He says he‘s giving up bad information. He gave up wrong information while being tortured.

And that puts a much different torque on the folks, prominently members of the Cheney family, who are still using the supposed utility of what we learned by torturing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in their public defense of the torture program.


CHENEY: We didn‘t know about al Qaeda‘s plan, but Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and a few others did know. And with many thousand of innocent lives potentially in the balance, we did not think it made sense to let the terrorists answer questions in their own good time, if they answered them at all.



LIZ CHENEY, VICE PRES. CHENEY‘S DAUGHTER: If he were waterboarded, you would be able to get that information and prevent the attack, you wouldn‘t do it? You would let him go ahead and launch the attack.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, how would I know that? How would—how would I know that?

L. CHENEY: Eugene, that‘s exactly the situation these folks were in.


MADDOW: Exactly the situation these folks were in. So, they waterboarded the guy so he would give them totally false information to make the waterboarding stop. Wouldn‘t that be great idea if there were a ticking time bomb somewhere, where you had a lot of time pressure to get the right information? Don‘t you wish we were still doing that, to get wrong information out through people‘s fingernails obtained with pliers?

You can‘t win arguments with people who don‘t deal in facts. And now, the facts are somewhat more clear. Bush administration officials used to use the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to defend torture.

Then, last month, FBI interrogator Ali Soufan testified in Washington that he got valuable information from Abu Zubaydah using conventional, legal, proven interrogation methods until somebody else began to torture Abu Zubaydah who then clammed up.

They can no longer brag about torturing Abu Zubaydah. Now, it appears they can no longer brag about torturing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed either. But not only was it illegal, but it was also ill-advised, self-destructive, counterproductive.

And so, it may be that the last of these pseudo-substantive defenses of torture has tonight going away.

Joining us is Ben Wizner, lawyer for the ACLU National Security Project whose lawsuit forced the release of this testimony today.

Ben, thanks very much for joining us.


MADDOW: In previously released versions of these transcripts, I mean, they are still pretty redacted. I mean, they‘re still big blocks of text on them, right?


MADDOW: But in previous versions, the CIA had removed almost all references to the abuse of prisoners. Today, it‘s still heavily redacted. But we are getting these new little blocks of text. What do you think are the most significant new details that are jumping out of these for you?

WIZNER: Well, I think that passage that you highlighted is very critical. The first question we have to ask is: Why in the world was that classified?


WIZNER: Was there anything in the passage that you read that included a secret source or method by the CIA? That included intelligence information that couldn‘t be shared with the world? There was one thing in that passage that the Bush administration desperately did not want the world to know, and that was that its illegal torture program not only was immoral, but that it was also useless.

You heard Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He said, “They tortured me and I said, ‘OK, bin Laden is there.” But have we caught bin Laden?


WIZNER: You know, obviously, this program wasn‘t working, but it was a critical lynch pen of their defense of the program, that without it, American lives would be lost.

MADDOW: And, as you point out, this brings us from not only the crime of torture to the crime of covering up the crime of torture.

WIZNER: Well, I think that‘s right and I think different things are being covered up here. So, the Bush administration critically wanted to cover up how ineffective torture was. They also wanted to cover up information about the specific detainees.

There‘s a passage from which Abu Zubaydah, who Bush had called an arch-terrorist, the number three in al Qaeda, recounts that eventually his CIA interrogators told him, “We realize you‘re not the number three, that you‘re not even a planner or a fighter, you know, that we made a mistake in your identity.”

And that‘s something that again, it contains no legitimately secret information, but just would have been very embarrassing for the Bush administration in carrying on this torture program.

MADDOW: What does this new information mean in terms of—I guess in terms of accountability? I don‘t even know what that would mean anymore, given how little we‘ve gotten from the new administration about what they‘d be willing to move forward with. Do you think this has implications?

WIZNER: Well, you know, again—and here, I think, the implications aren‘t necessarily the right ones, because we talked about the new information that was released. But I want to show you what was withheld. This was the document as we got it from the Bush administration.

MADDOW: Hold that. Can we get a shot of that?

WIZNER: You can, yes.

MADDOW: There we go, yes.

WIZNER: And this is the very same document as we got from the Obama administration. You see this little line here? It makes me want to say keep the change, right?

MADDOW: Right.

WIZNER: And I think that what‘s going on here is very, very clear. You know, this is information—the release of which, would increase calls for criminal accountability. And that is something that the Obama administration has been fighting to avoid.

And remember, these are voices that are missing from the debate. We have the Justice Department memos that tell you what John Yoo and Jay Bybee authorized. We have Dick Cheney‘s denials.

But the people who are eyewitnesses to this are the victims themselves. And those people are still cordoned off and secreted away. And their words, which would give us a clearer picture of exactly what happened, this document is called, “Written statement regarding alleged abuse from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.” And it‘s still completely blank, because they might give lie to another myth in the story.

Remember that when President Obama released the Department of Justice memoranda, he said, “Interrogators who were following in good faith legal advice should not be held accountable.” But what if they weren‘t?


WIZNER: What if the detainees are the ones who have the evidence that the interrogators went far beyond what was authorized even in those horrific OLC memos that were released some months ago?

So, you know, I think that the disturbing trend here—and we saw it last week as well—is that the Obama administration is now stepping back from transparency because they see it‘s an inevitable ingredient to accountability.

MADDOW: Ben Wizner is the lawyer from the ACLU‘s National Security Project, whose lawsuit forced the release of this testimony today. You‘re also still representing the CIA rendition flight state secret case as well which proceeds—which proceeds as well and which I feel like—I feel like half of my homework for this show is studying what you do during the week. So, thanks forgiving me a lot of work to do, Ben. Thank you.

WIZNER: Glad to be here, Rachel. Thanks for your interest.

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