Home Store In Memoriam Deborah Newsletter Forum Topics Blogfeed Blogroll Facebook MySpace Contact Us About

O’Reilly Versus Colmes Plus Donald Rumsfeld’s New Torture-A-Go-Go Clothes

Reported by Ellen - May 5, 2011 -

I wrote yesterday about Donald Rumsfeld’s too cute by half comments Tuesday night (5/3/11) in which he and Sean Hannity pretended that he was verifying Hannity’s contention that waterboarding (under George W. Bush) led directly to finding and killing Osama Bin Laden (under Barack Obama). Basically, Rumsfeld said “enhanced interrogations” led to “critically important” intelligence, and then allowed Hannity to conclude without challenge that Bush’s waterboarded intelligence was the crucial element that got Obama the get. But shortly before Rumsfeld appeared on Hannity, there was a fiery debate between Bill O’Reilly and Alan Colmes over waterboarding that partly centered on Rumsfeld’s prior remarks to Newsmax. The debate also included O’Reilly’s ludicrous refusal to consider Rumsfeld’s comments unless they were made on The Factor. So Wednesday night (5/4/11), O’Reilly interviewed Rumsfeld – sans Colmes – and, like Hannity, O’Reilly triumphantly concluded that Rumsfeld had proved the crucial role of waterboarding in getting Bin Laden. Except that’s not quite what happened.

Sadly, O’Reilly – who is often a voice of reason on Fox – may be even more torture-a-go-go than Hannity. In the discussion with Colmes, O’Reilly said he didn’t believe Rumsfeld’s comments about the importance of “normal interrogation” in finding Bin Laden because “I have not questioned him… I’m not going to take a second-rate, secondary source on Rumsfeld… because he didn’t answer my direct question.”

O’Reilly was wrong about the “secondary source.” Rumsfeld made the comments Colmes cited in an interview with Newsmax. You can watch the interview here where Rumsfeld makes his comments directly – otherwise known as a primary source. However, I believe Colmes misspoke slightly, too. Rumsfeld did not quite say, as Colmes originally said, that finding Bin Laden was the result of "normal interrogation."

Here’s what Rumsfeld actually said:

It is true, as I understand it, that some information that came from normal interrogation approaches in Guantanamo did lead to information that was beneficial in this instance but it was not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding.

…It certainly points up the fact that the structures that President Bush put in place - military commissions, Guantanamo Bay, the Patriot Act, indefinite detention, and humane treatment, but intensive interrogation to be sure — all contributed to the success we’ve had in the global war on terror.

We’ve always had the ability to capture or kill Obama (sic) what we didn’t have was the intelligence that was needed.

In other words, in Rumsfeld's view, Bush administration policies as a whole “all contributed to the success” in the “global war on terror” as a whole but they never got the key intelligence that Obama got via normal interrogations that led to finding Bin Laden.

But O'Reilly never heard what Rumsfeld said to Newsmax. The discussion with Colmes got heated; O’Reilly started yelling that it was “about protecting Americans,” and that Colmes “couldn’t care less.” Classy.

The segment ended with O’Reilly inviting Rumsfeld to come on The Factor.

But first, Rumsfeld appeared the next morning on Fox & Friends where he continued to talk up waterboarding and continued to allow his hosts to suggest that it was waterboarding that led to finding Bin Laden.

For example, Rumsfeld told Gretchen Carlson, “George Tenet, the former CIA Director, and General Hayden, the CIA Director, and I believe most recently Leon Panetta have all indicated that the enhanced interrogations techniques used by the CIA actually produced a great deal of important intelligence.”

It was Carlson, not Rumsfeld, who added, “in regard to actually getting Osama Bin Laden.”

Rumsfeld neither agreed nor disagreed. However, he lent credulity to the assertion by also saying, “It is probably a good thing that (bin Laden’s) been killed. Certainly, even if he'd been captured, some people are suggesting that there would have been considerable intelligence information that could have been gained by interrogating him. But the interrogation policies of this administration, I think, would be unlikely to produce much intelligence from Osama bin Laden.”

Later, Rumsfeld gave a similar performance with O’Reilly. That was after a lengthy Talking Points Commentary in which O’Reilly personally accused Colmes of not “acknowledg(ing) that enhanced interrogation protects Americans” and saying Colmes was proven wrong.

But actually, it’s O’Reilly who is wrong. Rumsfeld was not the only source Colmes cited. He also cited the New York Times. I’m not sure which article Colmes was referring to but this one explains how spy work, not “enhanced interrogations” got the needed information.

“Prisoners in American custody told stories of a trusted courier. When the Americans ran the man’s pseudonym past two top-level detainees — the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed; and Al Qaeda’s operational chief, Abu Faraj al-Libi — the men claimed never to have heard his name. That raised suspicions among interrogators that the two detainees were lying and that the courier probably was an important figure.

…By 2005, many inside the C.I.A. had reached the conclusion that the Bin Laden hunt had grown cold, and the agency’s top clandestine officer ordered an overhaul of the agency’s counterterrorism operations. The result was Operation Cannonball, a bureaucratic reshuffling that placed more C.I.A. case officers on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

With more agents in the field, the C.I.A. finally got the courier’s family name. With that, they turned to one of their greatest investigative tools — the National Security Agency began intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages between the man’s family and anyone inside Pakistan. From there they got his full name."

O’Reilly magnanimously claimed that Colmes had misinterpreted Rumsfeld’s remarks, adding, “But I said, quite responsibly, I believe, that since I had not talked to you directly, I’m not taking some secondary source that as you said, garbled up what your original remarks were.”

In fact, Rumsfeld’s remarks were not garbled. Anyone can watch the interview and hear him say, plainly and unmistakeably, “We’ve always had the ability to capture or kill Obama (sic) what we didn’t have was the intelligence that was needed.”

Rumsfeld repeated to O'Reilly the now-familiar claim that waterboarding produced “an enormous amount of very, very valuable intelligence information” but this time Rumsfeld added, “In my view, we very likely would not have captured or killed Osama Bin Laden had we not had the intelligence information we had.”

It's a step closer but Rumsfeld still cagily avoided saying that intelligence from waterboarding led to finding Bin Laden. In fact, he avoided saying how much of a role waterboarding played at all. But he let O’Reilly rant about how “the top three people in the government” are not as gaga for torture as they should be, in O’Reilly’s view. “Doesn’t that worry you?” O’Reilly shouted. He went on to complain that instead of saying they were wrong about waterboarding, the Obama administration was calling it “a mosaic” of intelligence information that led to bin Laden.

Well, guess what, Bill? That’s exactly what Rumsfeld basically said. In his own words, directly to an interviewer, no garbling, and the entire interview is available on the web where everyone can see it. Even better, Rumsfeld told O’Reilly right then and there that it was a mosaic. He just forgot to mention that other pieces, not waterboarding, got the job done.

Nevertheless, O’Reilly and Rumsfeld chuckled that Colmes had made them look good “at the expense of himself.”

Not really, Bill, not really. Colmes has a wealth of information on his side in this blog post of his. But the simple facts speak for themselves, too. By Rumsfeld’s own admission – which he has yet to repudiate - Bush administration interrogations did not produce the intelligence necessary to capture Bin Laden, even though Bush remained in office more than seven years after 9/11. Obama administration investigations – more than two years after Bush left office – did the job. Without waterboarding or any other form of torture. Period.

submit to reddit

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »