A telling suspension of disbelief

Tom Joscelyn calls attention to this remarkable story in yesterday’s Washington Post, in which the Post uncritically accepts as fact the testimony of Gitmo prisoners seeking their release.

The Post’s story is called “CIA Mistaken on ‘High-Value’ Detainee, Document Shows.” The high-value detainee in question is Abu Zubaida who, Joscelyn reminds us, has been the subject of a campaign by the Post to convince the world that he was unimportant. The “document” in question is Abu Zubaida’s testimony before a Combatant Status Review Tribunal. The terrorist apparently testified that “his jailers told him they had mistakenly thought he was the No. 3 man in [al Qaeda’s] hierarchy and a partner of Osama bin Laden’s.” The Post concludes that Abu Zubaida’s self-serving statement “shows” the CIA was mistaken about him.

Joscelyn argues forcefully that “the idea that Zubaydah was not a top al Qaeda terrorist is utter nonsense.” At a minimum, no fair-minded person would take the prisoner’s denials as proof of his low-level status. Nor would any fair-minded person conclude that the CIA was mistaken on this matter based on the prisoner’s claim that the CIA confessed error. Skepticism would be the order of the day even if Zubaida had not lied elsewhere in his testimony, as Joscelyn shows he did.

Nor is Zubaida the only beneficiary of the Post’s willingness to accept detainee testimony as gospel. Reporters Peter Finn and Julie Tate write:

The new transcripts provide some limited new insight into the interaction between the CIA and its prisoners.

[Khalid Sheik] Mohammed. . .appears to have invoked the U.S. Constitution to protest his treatment.

He described the response he received: “You are not American, and you are not on American soil. So you cannot ask about the Constitution.”

Mohammed also said he lied in response to questions about bin Laden’s location.

“Where is he? I don’t know,” Mohammed said. “Then he torture me. Then I said yes, he is in this area.”

The Post’s claim that this transcript sheds “insight into the interaction between the CIA and its prisions” assumes that the testimony of the bloodthirsty terrorist is truthful. If his testimony is false, it sheds no insight, “limited” or otherwise; it is mere disinformation.

The Post, I trust, would not assume the veracity of an ordinary criminal’s testimony about his guilt or innocence or about his interaction with the police. And it certainly would not uncritically accept the word of a U.S. government official during a Republican administration.

Perhaps the reporting of Finn and Tate provides insight into where the sympathies of the Washington Post reside.

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