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Did torture stop another 9/11?
Evidence that waterboarding and other extreme interrogation techniques saved Los Angeles—or not
 

President Obama’s assertion that “enhanced” CIA interrogations didn’t keep us safe is “patently false,” said former Bush aide Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post. And the memos he released last week prove it. In one, the CIA makes clear it thinks those techniques prevented another 9/11, including a “Second Wave” plane attack on California's Library Tower that could have left “a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York.”

“The Library Tower?” said Timothy Noah in Slate. “Is that the best that Bush’s torture apologists can do?” First of all, crashing planes into tall buildings stopped being a “viable al Qaida strategy” before the sun even set on 9/11. More to the point, that nascent plot had been thwarted a year before Khalid Shaikh Mohammed—whose torture provides Thiessen’s “proof”—was even captured.

This is what’s hard about counterterrorism policy, said Philip Klein in The American Spectator. A thwarted attack “always remains theoretical,” so one side can claim it never would have succeeded and the other can say its actions “saved lives.” But “this shouldn’t be ideological”—the only metric should be if a policy keeps us safe, and if it does us more good than harm.

 

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