Donald Rumsfeld headed to Hannity's show to clarify his opinion on waterboarding, information extraction, and the Bin Laden timeline. In the process, he manages to use careful language and sleight of hand to distort what he really said the day
May 4, 2011

Donald Rumsfeld headed to Hannity's show to clarify his opinion on waterboarding, information extraction, and the Bin Laden timeline. In the process, he manages to use careful language and sleight of hand to distort what he really said the day before, while confirming that indeed, waterboarding KSM did not yield any usable information that led to Bin Laden.

I'm guessing Bill O'Reilly and Donald Rumsfeld just don't get along, because Rumsfeld was glad to subject himself to a little softball on Hannity's show not even an hour after O'Reilly tried to take a bite out of Alan Colmes.

Let's review the actual timeline, courtesy of Marcy Wheeler:

  • Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, months after he was waterboarded and via “standard” interrogation, admits he knows someone named Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, but denies he has anything to do with al Qaeda.
  • Hassan Ghul, who was captured in Iraq in 2004, reveals that Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti was an al Qaeda courier
  • Under CIA interrogation, Abu Faraj al-Libi admits he learned he was replacing KSM through a courier, but denied knowing al-Kuwaiti so strenuously CIA figured he must be important
  • Via still unclear means, CIA learns Abu Ahmed’s real name
  • US picks up Abu Ahmed talking to someone else it was monitoring, speaking from a location away from the compound
  • US tracks Abu Ahmed back to compound

Marcy follows up later with this post, proving the "enhanced interrogation techniques" did not yield Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti's name. Instead, KSM lied to interrogators while he was being tortured.

There's your timeline. Now listen to Donald Rumsfeld try to distort it. I'll add the transcript below with some occasional interruptions for commentary.

HANNITY: Let me ask you this. I think it's pretty clear now that discovering who this courier was through strong interrogation techniques that were employed during the Bush Administration without which this day would never have occurred. So can we -- uh - It seems to me we need to reignite this debate about enhanced interrogation techniques in this country. Is that a good idea?

Editorial insert: No, it's a helluva bad idea, and really we just don't torture. That is all. We do. not. torture. Back to regularly scheduled programming.

RUMSFELD: I think it certainly is a reasonable idea. Is it correct that CIA director Panetta today --
RUMSFELD: -- indicated that one of the individuals who provided important information had in fact been waterboarded? Is that correct?
RUMSFELD: Well, that's my understanding. And I think that anyone who suggests that the enhanced techniques -- let's be blunt - waterboarding -- did not produce an enormous amount of valuable intelligence just isn't facing the truth.

It's time to refer back to the timeline above and reiterate point number one: KSM name-dropped under standard interrogation techniques months after he had been waterboarded. There was no cause/effect there. Back to Rumsfeld.

The facts are, General Mike Hayden came in, he had no connection with waterboarding anybody, he looked at all the evidence and concluded that a major fraction of the intelligence in our country on Al Qaeda came from individuals -- the three, only three people -- who were waterboarded.

Muddy water alert! Referring to the OLC torture memo (PDF) with regard to the three individuals (all considered "high-value), we find this:

Consistent with its heightened standard for use of the waterboard, the CIA has used this technique in the interrogations of only three detainees to date (KSM, Zubaydah, and 'Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri) and has not used it since the March 2003 interrogation of KSM.

What Rumsfeld is doing here is conflating past waterboarding with the actual standard interrogation techniques which first yielded a name, which wasn't even the courier's real name, in 2004. But he goes even further with it.

HANNITY: Well, there were only three people. And that led to the information of the nickname of the courier. And this by the way -- we've had this for years and this was being pursued during the Bush years. The courier's name was found, he was eventually identified, and through eavesdropping we were able to locate him and then locate Bin Laden.

But that brings up the issue of black sites, enhanced interrogation, rendition, all the things we've discussed. We would not have had the success! And these are the very policies...I praised the president yesterday. I think it was a gutsy move, that he decided to go in and get him so we could have identification. But if he had had his way and Democrats had their way, we wouldn't have had this intelligence, sir.

Dang, we may be past mud and right on into sludge and muck mixed with some strong manure. Because Hannity, without coming right out and saying it, says the waterboarding was the direct reason for the information which was, of course, not true and doesn't fit in the timeline even a little bit.

RUMSFELD: You're exactly right. I also agree that he made the right decision. Rather than using cruise missiles or drones to attack the facility I think using the SEAL teams and going in there and actually getting him physically, identifying him, knowing that's what's happened and being certain about it was exactly the right call.

I'm told there was some confusion today on some programs, even one on Fox I think, suggesting that I indicated that no one who was waterboarded at Guantanamo provided any information on this. That's just not true.

BREAK for manure stirring: That is clearly NOT what was said. See how carefully Rumsfeld misstates what was said by Colmes on O'Reilly? 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.

In order to confuse the entire issue, Rumsfeld, with Hannity's blessing, invents a scenario that is entirely different than what anyone has said happened. So yes, it's quite easy to deny something that was never said in the first place.

RUMSFELD: What I said was, no one was waterboarded at Guantanamo by the US military. In fact, no one was waterboarded at Guantanamo, period. Three people were waterboarded by the CIA away from Guantanamo and then later brought to Guantanamo and in fact, as you point out, the information that came from those individuals was critically important.

Guantanamo is irrelevant. That's a smokescreen, which Rumsfeld then uses to confuse and muck the issue even more by again conflating the information elicited under standard interrogation techniques with the CIA waterboarding. But if you read carefully, what you see is Rumsfeld agreeing that waterboarding techniques did not elicit the information. Standard techniques did.

You may have noticed on the chyron at the bottom that Karl Rove was to follow the Rumsfeld interview. After wading through this excrement-laden flow of nonsense, there is no way I will be inflicting that segment on any of you, or transcribing it. Rumsfeld has left a stench where clarity used to be.

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.