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ABC Admits That Torture "Expert" Kiriakou Led Them Astray Re: Waterboarding,-Sort-Of

Via Daily Kos.

Earlier this week, The New York Times ran a story on a December, 2007 ABC News story in which John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer claimed that the torture of Abu Zubaydah "worked and yielded results very quickly."

Mr. Zubaydah started to cooperate after being waterboarded for “probably 30, 35 seconds,” Mr. Kiriakou told the ABC reporter Brian Ross. “From that day on he answered every question.”

His claims — unverified at the time, but repeated by dozens of broadcasts, blogs and newspapers — have been sharply contradicted by a newly declassified Justice Department memo that said waterboarding had been used on Mr. Zubaydah “at least 83 times.”

And then there's the further "oops" in ABC's reporting:

But lost in much of the coverage was the fact that Mr. Kiriakou had no firsthand knowledge of the waterboarding: He was not actually in the secret prison in Thailand where Mr. Zubaydah had been interrogated but in the C.I.A. headquarters in Northern Virginia. He learned about it only by reading accounts from the field.

As Greg reports, ABC News has acknowledged the error, sort of.

The network’s concession is not a stand-alone correction — it appears in a news story that focuses largely on something else: The CIA’s use of private contractors to design the torture program....

ABC News’ correction appears almost in passing in the network’s new story. It mentions that the new memos show that waterboarding was used far more often than originally thought, adding that Zubaydah was waterboarded “at least 83 times.” It continues:

That contradicts what former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who led the Zubaydah capture team, told ABC News in 2007 when he first revealed publicly that waterboarding had been used.

ABC doesn’t mention the huge role played by original story in shaping the subsequent debate, and to my knowledge the network hasn’t said it regrets the error. While it’s good that ABC corrected the record, the damage of the original story has long since been done.

It's not quite as bad as the journalistic horror that WaPo's editorial page continues to be (Krauthammer: "Torture is an impermissible evil. Except under two circumstances." I think the word impermissible doesn't mean what Krauthammer thinks it means), but it's bad enough. History is going to remember the Bush administration as the worst the nation ever experienced, and the go-along media that helped allow it to happen is going to be only slightly less tainted.

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