COMMENTS: Tale of Torture from Faisalabad

Campaign 2008 is intensifying. CBS News published a nationwide opinion poll showing Mike Huckabee closing in on Rudolph Giuliani's lead in the Republican horse race standings and Barack Obama making inroads on Hillary Rodham Clinton among Democrats. Obama's weekend barnstorming with TV talkshow host Oprah Winfrey was CBS' lead and Story of the Day. In all, campaign coverage occupied 18 minutes on the three newscasts combined, 32% of their total newshole. NBC led with winter weather as an icestorm paralyzed the southern plains. ABC followed up on Friday's Story of the Day with an Exclusive on waterboarding torture by the CIA.

ABC's Brian Ross introduced us to John Kiriakou, the former spy who was "a team leader for the CIA-FBI squad" that captured and interrogated suspected al-Qaeda network leader abu-Zubaydah in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad in the spring of 2002. Kiriakou described obtaining approval from his CIA superiors in Washington to go ahead with the waterboarding of their prisoner. "Would you call it torture?" "At the time, no. I think I have changed my mind."

Kiriakou recalled that abu-Zubaydah "was able to withstand the waterboarding for quite some time--and by that I mean probably 30, 35 seconds." Within a few days the prisoner agreed to cooperate and confessed to plots for "a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks." Ross asked: "So in your view, the waterboarding broke him?" "I think it did, yes." "Did it compromise American principles or did it save American lives?" "I think both."

NBC failed to file any follow-up on the CIA story. On CBS, Pentagon correspondent David Martin named the second prisoner whose waterboarding was videotaped by the CIA and whose videotape was later destroyed. Friday, Martin hinted that he was Ramsi bin al-Shibh. Now he identifies him as abdal-Rashim al-Nashiri. Martin also identified Jose Rodriguez, the head of the CIA's clandestine service, as the official who ordered the videotape destroyed. He did so "without telling then CIA Director Porter Goss and against the advice of the CIA's own general counsel, the White House deputy counsel and the ranking Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee."

As for Kiriakou, Martin reported that the former spy told him that he "refused to use the harsh interrogation techniques. That job, he said, was turned over to retired commandos under contract to the CIA."


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