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Two Views On Abu Zubaydah

Kevin Drum posts two conflicting accounts of the CIA interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, who was captured in the weeks after 9/11. According to Ron Suskind's sources, Zubaydah was a schizophrenic low-level operative who, after being beaten, waterboarded, and deprived of medication, started blabbing incoherently about thousands of utterly fantastic plots. (The only useful bit of information came not from torture, but after an interrogator convinced Zubaydah that he was predestined to cooperate.)

Meanwhile, retired CIA officer John Kiriakou recently told ABC News that Zubaydah was "highly thought of in Al Qaeda... one of the intellectual leaders" who, after being tortured offered up information that "disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks." But, Kiriakou added, even if they did get useful intelligence out of the waterboarding sessions (which is far from clear), the United States shouldn't be torturing people: "We're Americans and we're better than this. And we shouldn't be doing this kinda thing."

More significantly, this is the first time an official has openly admitted that the CIA has been torturing detainees—and at the behest of the White House.

--Bradford Plumer