ANDREW McCARTHY: DID I GIVE McCAIN MORE CREDIT THAN HE DESERVES?
As K-Lo has mentioned, my column today is about Senator McCain’s allegation that former Attorney General Mukasey gave a “false” account of the intelligence trail that led to the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, and McCain’s absurd claim that the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program for high level al-Qaeda detainees did not play a key role in discovering the courier who, in turn, led the intelligence community to bin Laden’s location. It has come to my attention that I may actually have given Senator McCain more credit than he deserves.
As I argue, and as Marc Thiessen has pointed out, McCain’s statements on the matter have been ambiguous and misleading. I now realize that, in the course of trying to parse what he said, I, too, may have been misled.
Sen. McCain claimed that “the first mention of the name of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti,” the courier in question, “came from a detainee held in another country.” Many critics, who, like McCain, condemn the CIA interrogation program, claim that the critical breakthrough in identifying the courier was the interrogation of Hassan Ghul. Unlike the top al-Qaeda detainees most closely associated with the CIA program — e.g., Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Ubaydah, Mohammed al-Qhatani, and Abu Faraj al-Libi — Ghul was captured and initially detained in Iraq. Consequently, I have assumed (just as many others assume) that McCain’s reference to a detainee captured in another country related to Ghul, who was undeniably critical to the intelligence mosaic that led to the courier.
That may have been an error. A careful reading of Marc Thiessen’s Washington Post column yesterday indicates that McCain may actually have been referring to a different detainee — an unidentified detainee who was captured in an unidentified country. The only thing we really know about this detainee is that, unlike Ghul, he was of absolutely no significance to the intelligence community’s quest to locate the courier who led them to bin Laden. Here is the relevant section of Marc’s column:
To summarize, I have given McCain the benefit of the doubt that he has been talking about someone (namely, Ghul) who at least had some significance in the discovery of al-Kuwaiti. And perhaps he has been — the Senator’s statements have been so cagey, it’s hard to tell. Assuming he was referring to Ghul, the burden of my column was to demonstrate that (a) even without factoring in Ghul’s information, the other detainees subjected to harsh interrogation tactics provided salient intelligence, and (b) Ghul himself was subjected to harsh interrogation tactics (albeit not waterboarding), so even the intelligence from his interrogation is traceable to the CIA program that, according to McCain, did not help us locate first the courier and then bin Laden.
But it turns out that I may have been wrong to give McCain as much credit as I did. He may actually have been talking about a source (whom he has not named) who had utterly nothing to do with finding al-Kuwaiti — based on an insignificant report about which that the agents who were looking for al-Kuwaiti would not even have learned had they not already been tipped off to al-Kuwaiti’s importance by detainees subjected to the CIA program’s harsh interrogation tactics.
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