Cheney Was Right
by Rowan Scarborough (more by this author)
Posted 08/26/2009 ET

The CIA's harsh interrogation techniques saved countless American lives by forcing al Qaeda chieftains to disclose a string of sophisticated terror plots to infiltrate the United States with cold-blooded killers.

That fact is established in two documents released Monday by the Justice Department, hours after they released the CIA Inspector General report which Attorney General Holder has used as a basis to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the CIA interrogators.

The successes produced by the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” are disclosed in two declassified CIA reports -- the same ones demanded to be released by former Vice President Dick Cheney. He made the demand after President Barack Obama ordered the release of a Justice Department memo outlining the techniques -- but not the results.

The bottom line: the two reports show the enhanced interrogation techniques, whether right or wrong, protected America.

Here is one example. Abu Zubaydah, one of three high-value al Qaeda members the CIA water-boarded, coughed up the name of Khalid Sheik Mohammed as the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks. KSM was captured (also water-boarded) and began to talk. He provided an inside look at how al Qaeda operated, from finances to recruitment. And he divulged other attack plans as well as the names of other terrorists who had not before been identified.

KSM admitted funneling money to operative Majid Khan. The captured Khan admitted to giving the money to another operative named Zubair. The CIA captured Zubair in 2003. Zubair disclosed he worked directly for Hambali, the al Qaeda kingpin in South Asia who pulled off the horrific 2002 Bali, Indonesia, bombings that killed 240 people.

With is information, the CIA tracked down and captured Hambali, who is now in the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Next, KSM provided the name of Hambali's brother, Rusman Gunawan, as his successor in Asia.

Gunawan was captured and provided the crown jewels: Hambali had selected a cadre of terrorists to travel to Karachi, Pakistan, for training. There, KSM was to groom them to travel to the United States and unleash attacks. One attack envisioned by KSM as an encore to September 11 was to hijack more aircraft and fly them into skyscrapers around the U.S.

There's more. Khalid had recruited someone already in the U.S. -- an Ohio truck driver by the name of Iyman Faris -- to kill Americans. Faris was in the planning stages when the FBI arrested him. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Khalid also disclosed another plot. He was conspiring with Sayf al Rahman Paracha to smuggle explosives into the U.S. to bomb buildings in New York City. The U.S. located and arrested Paracha before he could set off bombs. He, too, sits at Guantanamo, as do KSM and Zubaydah.

The two Cheney-requested documents also show the interrogations foiled an al Qaeda program to produce and spread anthrax, the deadly germ used in biological warfare.

KSM produced the names of three al Qaeda members working on anthrax. All three were arrested.

Other foiled plots: bomb the U.S. embassy in Pakistan; truck-bomb the U.S. military base on the Horn of Africa; and fly planes into terminals at Heathrow Airport. The Heathrow plot was fairly mature. KSM had selected operatives and some 10 countries from where saboteurs would board commercial airliners.

The information is found in a CIA report is entitled, "Detainee Reporting Pivotal for the War Against al Qaeda."

It concludes: "Detainee reporting has helped thwart a number of al Qaeda plots to attack targets in the West and elsewhere. Not only have detainees reported on potential targets and techniques that al Qaeda operational planners have considered but arrests also have disrupted attack plans in progress."

And it said, "Since 11 September, the capture and debriefing of [high value targets] has significantly advanced our understanding of al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups. Before the capture of Abu Zubaydah in March 2002, we had significant gaps in knowledge about al Qaeda's organizational structure, key members and associates, capabilities, and its presence around the globe. Within months of his arrest, Abu Zubaydah provided details about al Qaeda's organizational structure, key operatives and modus operandi."

The second Cheney-requested report deals more closely with information provided by Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the man who proudly took credit for 9-11 and for beheading Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

"Since his March 2003 capture, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the driving force behind the 11 September attacks as well as several subsequent plots against U.S. and Western targets worldwide, has become one of the U.S. government's key sources on al Qaeda," the report said. "He has provided intelligence that has led directly to the capture of operatives or fleshed our understanding of the activities of important detainees, which in turn assisted in the debriefings of these individuals."

As for Cheney, he feels vindicated. He released a statement that said, "The documents released Monday clearly demonstrated that the individuals subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al Qaeda. This intelligence saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks."

Mr. Scarborough is a national security writer who has written books on Donald Rumsfeld and the CIA, including the New York Times bestseller Rumsfeld's War.