The Corner

Jane Mayer’s Defenders Chime In

Over at True/Slant, Conor Friedersdorf comes to Jane Mayer’s defense, claiming Mayer didn’t really mean that the CIA interrogations “yielded no appreciable intelligence benefit” because — aha! — I left out that she attributed this claim to “many critics.” Please. Asserting that “many critics” say CIA interrogations yielded no intelligence is like saying “many critics say you beat your wife.” It’s disingenuous to cite these many (unnamed) critics and say — oh, but of course, Mayer did not mean she agreed with them. Of course she did. The whole purpose of her review was to rebut the arguments I present in Courting Disaster that the CIA program produced invaluable intelligence.

But I would certainly welcome it if Mayer, Friedersdorf, and all the other critics would finally come out and admit publicly that enhanced interrogations did work — that lives were saved thanks to the information the CIA program produced. This would be progress indeed.

Friedersdorf goes on to charge that I incorrectly claim Admiral Blair, Leon Panetta, and John Brennan all supported the CIA program. This is not what I said. Their opposition is well documented in my book, and should be obvious to any sentient reader (if they supported the CIA program they would not have shut it down). What I do is quote them admitting that the program worked. The point I made is that Mayer’s claim that CIA interrogations “yielded no appreciable intelligence benefit” is so absurd that even the Obama administration officials who shut down the program disagree with her.

Moreover, in Courting Disaster, I do quote Admiral Blair as saying “there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means” — and then spend several pages dissecting the merits of his assertion (see pages 339–342). I write: “In other words, we know with 100 percent certitude that enhanced interrogations produced ‘high value information,’ but there is ‘no way of knowing’ whether other methods can produce the same information. This means that the Obama administration is abandoning a proven tool to risk our security on the admittedly unproven prospect that the Army Field Manual will produce the same results.” It’s all in there — though apparently these days critics on the left don’t feel they need to actually read a book before they criticize it.

The bottom line is that critics like Mayer want to have it both ways: They want to say (a) we should not use these techniques and (b) they didn’t work anyway. As even Obama administration officials admit, the second part is simply not true.

The question is: Will Mayer admit it as well?

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