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Cheney hints waterboarding prevented terrorist attack on Los Angeles. Should he be prosecuted?

April 22, 2009 |  7:33 am

9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheik Mohammed

Now that President Obama has given his reluctant blessings to a bipartisan commission to study CIA torture tactics in the Bush administration, the right-wing blogosphere is defending the techniques with chatter about what former Vice President Cheney called the "enormously valuable" information derived from waterboarding.

According to a new Senate Intelligence Committee report released last night, President George W. Bush made a written determination that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, with its minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to Al Qaeda or Taliban detainees, clearing the way for a new interrogation program based on “Chinese communist” tactics first used against Americans during the Korean War.

Now, with pressure growing to investigate Cheney and others in the Bush administration for their roles in approving the controversial techniques, conservatives are turning up the heat.

Exhibit A in the case for torture: Defenders of the practice say the waterboarding of Al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced information that allowed the U.S government to thwart a planned attack on Los Angeles in 2002.

According to a previously classified May 30, 2005, Justice Department memo that the Obama administration released last week, before he was waterboarded, when KSM was asked about planned attacks on the United States, he ominously told his CIA interrogators, “Soon, you will know.”

After the "enhanced techniques," which the agency used on him 183 times, KSM -- the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks -- told investigators about a "second wave" of terrorists from East Asia who planned to crash a hijacked airliner into a building in Los Angeles.

After he was subjected to the waterboarding technique, wrote Conservative News Service's Terence P. Jeffrey,"KSM became cooperative, providing intelligence that led to the capture of key Al Qaeda allies and, eventually, the closing down of an East Asian terrorist cell that had been tasked with carrying out the 9/11-style attack on Los Angeles."

The Justice Department memo concluded:

In particular, the CIA believes that it would have been unable to obtain critical information from numerous detainees, including KSM and Abu Zubaydah, without these enhanced techniques. ... [They] had expressed their belief that the general U.S. population was "weak," lacked resilience, and would be unable to "do what was necessary to prevent the terrorists from succeeding in their goals." 

Thanks to a lawsuit by the ACLU, the memos are now out. You can read the full transcript here.

And let us know what you think: Should Cheney be prosecuted for authorizing torture?

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: Associated Press




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