I’m doing something I very rarely do, which is to print an article in its entirety, but the article (a WSJ editorial) is brief and the point is so important, I feel that anything other than full reproduction, with attribution of course, would be a disservice:
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri planned the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Abu Zubaydah was the mastermind of the foiled millennium terrorist attacks, which had Los Angeles airport as one of its targets. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed directed the September 11 attacks, and has claimed to have personally beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl.
All three men were captured by the CIA in 2002 and waterboarded in the course of their interrogations. They are also the only U.S. detainees to have been waterboarded. That fact, publicly confirmed yesterday by CIA Director Michael Hayden, shreds whatever is left to the so-called torture narrative, according to which the Bush Administration has engaged in widespread, needless and systematic torture of detainees.
Instead, we have sworn public testimony that the waterboarding was conducted against the three individuals best positioned to know about impending terrorist atrocities. The interrogations took place when a second major terrorist attack was widely seen as inevitable. And we know that the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah helped lead to the capture of KSM, and to the foiling of an active terrorist plot against the United States.
The waterboarding was conducted by intelligence professionals who understood they were operating not only with the approval of the Justice Department but also the informed consent of key Congressional leaders, including Democrat Jay Rockefeller, then the ranking minority Member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
In his own testimony yesterday, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell refused to rule out the use of waterboarding in the future, though he said it would have to be approved by the President and Attorney General. To the extent that his comments provide a measure of uncertainty to terrorist detainees who might otherwise think they have nothing to fear from their captors, this helps make us safer.
UPDATE: If you’re here from the WSJ, welcome! The interesting discussion isn’t here, obviously, but can be found in the comments to this post. Indeed, I wish I’d said most of the interesting things my commenters thought of and were kind enough to state here.