A little “nuance” goes a long way

Earlier this year, the Washington Post proclaimed, in a story by Joby Warrick and Peter Finn, that “not a single significant plot was foiled” as a result of the harsh interrogation of detainee Abu Zubaida. I took on that article here.
Today Warrick and Finn are back to give us what they call a “more nuanced look” at the interrogation of Abu Zubaida. As Marc Thiessen shows, this more nuanced look amounts to something close to a retraction of the authors’ claim that no significant plot was foiled as a result of this interrogation.
In today’s piece Warrick and Finn report that Abu Zubaida gave up information that led to the arrest of Jose Padilla. He did so, moreover, only after he was subjected to sleep deprivation. Thiessen points out that this reporting directly contradicts the claim of FBI agent Ali Soufan that he got the information about Padilla from Zubaida before enhanced interrogation techniques were applied by the CIA.
The earlier piece by Warrick and Finn acknowledged that Zubaida provided information that led to the arrest of Jose Padilla. However, it tried to minimize the significance of Padilla’s arrest by noting that Padilla was never charged in connection with the “dirty bomb” plot. But this was misdirection on the part of the Post — Padilla was in charge of planning a more realistic plot to blow up apartment buildings in the United States using natural gas.
In their “more nuanced” piece of today, Warrick and Finn abstain from minimizing hte importance of capturing Padilla. Instead of talking about what Padilla was not charged with, they concede that Padilla was convicted of providing material support for terrorism. Unfortunately, this still understates Padilla’s significance. As Thiessen explains, the Justice Department could not prosecute Padilla for the full panoply of his crimes without allowing him to call terrorists including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, thus risking the exposure of highly classified information. That’s why they settled for a conviction for providing material support for terrorism.
Nonetheless, today’s article represents progress. First, the Post is no longer making the false claim that the harsh interrogation of Zubaida did not foil any significant plots. Second, the Post has exposed as false Ali Soufan’s assertion that the FBI got the information that foiled Padilla’s plot before the implementation of enhanced interrogation techniques.


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