It sounded like facile sophistry. "We waterboarded the guy and, viola, a few days later he spilled his guts. See, waterboarding works. And, best of all, we saved the world." That was the line the CIA was peddling about its use of torture on Abu Zubaida, who the agency claims was a really, really important, al-Qaeda kingpin.
The FBI has come out in reply with what's been known about this guy for a long time - he's a mentally disturbed loudmouth. From the Washington Post:
While CIA officials have described him as an important insider whose disclosures under intense pressure saved lives, some FBI agents and analysts say he is largely a loudmouthed and mentally troubled hotelier whose credibility dropped as the CIA subjected him to a simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding and to other "enhanced interrogation" measures.
Bush has sided publicly with the CIA's version of events. "We knew that Zubaida had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking," Bush said in September 2006. "And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures," which the president said prompted Abu Zubaida to disclose information leading to the capture of Sept. 11, 2001, plotter Ramzi Binalshibh.
But former FBI officials privy to details of the case continue to dispute the CIA's account of the effectiveness of the harsh measures, making the record of Abu Zubaida's interrogation hard for outsiders to assess.
There is little dispute, according to officials from both agencies, that Abu Zubaida provided some valuable intelligence before CIA interrogators began to rough him up, including information that helped identify Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and al-Qaeda operative Jose Padilla.
Retired FBI agent Daniel Coleman, who led an examination of documents after Abu Zubaida's capture in early 2002 and worked on the case, said the CIA's harsh tactics cast doubt on the credibility of Abu Zubaida's information.
"I don't have confidence in anything he says, because once you go down that road, everything you say is tainted," Coleman said, referring to the harsh measures. "He was talking before they did that to him, but they didn't believe him. The problem is they didn't realize he didn't know all that much."