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Post-bin Laden, Keep It Real on Torture

Thomas Joscelyn at The Weekly Standard implies that U.S. interrogation techniques (torture) were vital in revealing Bin Laden’s location [1]. Despite the public having very little information on the actual process of pinning this location, Joscelyn is presuming quite a bit based on a single paragraph in the New York Times [2], which said detainees gave the pseudonym of bin Laden’s courier to interrogators. But then he goes on to make some striking assertions:

The press has been quick to highlight every reported instance of abuse (most of them fiction) and every case where an innocent was detained (comparatively few).

First of all, Joscelyn implies that the eagerness of the press to highlight government abuse is a petty, bothersome practice to be shrugged off with each new revelation. Perhaps they should stick to birtherism instead of shining light on government abuse and rescission of individual rights. Then maybe Joscelyn’s preferences for an unchallenged shadow government could reign.

More importantly, he provides zero evidence of the two major parenthetical points in the statement. Most of the reported abuse from Guantanamo was fiction? So everything from reams of documents released by the U.S. government [3] under FOIA requests, to declassified CIA documents detailing the prisoner treatment [4], to (semi-redacted) accounts of specific detainee abuse [5], to Congressional inquiries into Gitmo torture practices [6], to autopsy reports [7] of the murder of several detainees [8], to Wikileaks releases [9], to personal [10] stories [11], to all of the various reports [12] in the press which are too various to link to…was fiction? Shouldn’t such an impressively audacious statement be backed up by some evidence?

The second piece of parenthetical hyperbole—that “comparatively few” innocents have been detained—was also unsupported. There are, Joscelyn says, comparatively few cases where innocent people were detained. This of course begs the question, compared to what? Just over a year ago, the scorecard revealed something very different from what Joscelyn is telling us to believe without any evidence at all. Of the cases that had been reviewed up to that point, 72% were ordered released [13] due to insufficient evidence of any guilt of any crime. This is unlikely to be the full story, especially with news from Wikileaks documents about being detained for wearing the wrong kind of wristwatch [14], but also because there are a large number of detainees which the Obama administration has decreed will not be allowed to stand trial. So their guilt or innocence can never be revealed. This doesn’t sound like “comparatively few.”

In times of “unity” it is important to be extra careful not to get caught up in this kind of deference to the official line.

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#1 Comment By A. G. Phillbin On May 2, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

You know, I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but this “OBL killed” story sounds like pure crap. Why would you dispose of the body of the world’s most wanted fugitive? And, please, no horsesh*t about Muslims rioting because OBL’s cadaver couldn’t be kept around more than 24 hours. In 24 hours, they could have, at the very least, flown in members of his family to nearby Islamabad to identify him. Has anyone noticed that Abbottabad, the town where this was supposed to have happened, is 600 miles to the north of the Indian Ocean?