Monday, March 22, 2010

Fact-checking Thiessen's book

As Robert mentions in his post below, Jane Mayer of the New Yorker has an interesting article up which fact-checks Marc Thiessen's book, Courting Disaster. Mayer finds a lot of holes in Thiessen's theories:

Yet Thiessen is better at conveying fear than at relaying the facts. His account of the foiled Heathrow plot, for example, is “completely and utterly wrong,” according to Peter Clarke, who was the head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism branch in 2006. “The deduction that what was being planned was an attack against airliners was entirely based upon intelligence gathered in the U.K.,” Clarke said, adding that Thiessen’s “version of events is simply not recognized by those who were intimately involved in the airlines investigation in 2006.” Nor did Scotland Yard need to be told about the perils of terrorists using liquid explosives. The bombers who attacked London’s public-transportation system in 2005, Clarke pointed out, “used exactly the same materials.”

Thiessen’s claim about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed looks equally shaky. The Bush interrogation program hardly discovered the Philippine airlines plot: in 1995, police in Manila stopped it from proceeding and, later, confiscated a computer filled with incriminating details. By 2003, when Mohammed was detained, hundreds of news reports about the plot had been published. If Mohammed provided the C.I.A. with critical new clues—details unknown to the Philippine police, or anyone else—Thiessen doesn’t supply the evidence.


  1. I don't know how ultimately credible the charge is that members of the Bush administration went on a fishing expedition using torture specifically directed at gathering evidence for the Iraq invasion. But I know that the more Thiessen stumps for torture while invoking these prima facie ridiculous 'successes', the more credible it seems.

    What if every single death in the Iraq war, as well as all of its other horrific consequences such as the utter destruction of the Christian communities in Iraq, can in fact be laid at the feet of false information extracted through torture in a Bush Administration fishing expedition? Unfortunately, the suggestion doesn't sound crazy. There was a time when I would have dismissed it out of hand; but no more.