I don’t put much faith in anything that comes from Time magazine, and one of these days we need to stop and take a hard look at the whole subject of anonymous sources. We’ve gotten to the point where a huge proportion of significant news stories are based on information from unnamed sources; not only is the practice rarely criticized, there seems to be a tacit assumption in many quarters that these unknown leakers are somehow more reliable than, say, Bush administration officials.
That said, this Time story about Abu Zubaydah may be a blockbuster. Based on two anonymous sources, one a “U.S. official outside the cia at a ‘very senior Executive Branch level,’” the second allegedly a CIA source, Time reports that Zubaydah was being interrogated by the Americans and the questioning ran into a dead end. The CIA then ostensibly flew Zubaydah to another location where he was put into a fake “Saudi Arabian” jail cell and interrogated by purported Saudi intelligence officers, actually Arab-Americans. The idea was to scare Zubaydah, but instead of reacting with fear, he was overjoyed to be (as he thought) in Saudi Arabia, and started spouting the phone numbers of Saudi princes and government officials who would “tell you what to do.”
The Time article is based on a forthcoming book by Gerald Posner, who has some credibility because he wrote a good book on the Kennedy assassination that included the best mini-biography of Lee Oswald that has yet appeared. If true, the story obviously has great significance. But is it true? I for one am increasingly reluctant to draw any conclusions at all on the basis of leaked, anonymous sources.
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