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Courting Disaster: One of the most important books of the year

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By Michelle Malkin  •  January 18, 2010 01:54 PM

Fellow Regnery author, friend, and patriot Marc Thiessen’s new book launches today. Courting Disaster is a must-must-read that gives you an inside, in-depth look at the successful CIA interrogations program under the Bush administration and the reckless subversion of our security by the current administration and its jihadi-abetting bedfellows:

Thiessen will be on Hannity on Fox tonight to discuss the book. Here’s a taste of the thorough research he conducted with the intelligence, military, and homeland security officers who have been vilified for keeping America safe:

…I have had the chance to actually meet the real Jack Bauers — the CIA officials who questioned Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other senior terrorist leaders and got them to reveal their plans for new terrorist attacks. They explained to my why their approach has nothing in common with the methods used by Bauer on the fictional 24.

On July 31, 2006, I walked up the winding stairs of the Eisenhower Building to a secure conference room in the offices of the National Security Council’s intelligence directorate. I had been assigned to write a speech for President Bush acknowledging the existence of what was then the most highly classified program in the war on terror: the CIA program to detain and question captured terrorists. To write this speech, I was given access to some of the most sensitive intelligence our country possessed on the interrogation of senior al-Qaeda terrorists, as well as to intelligence officers who could explain to me how the program worked and why it had been successful in stopping new terrorist attacks.

Sitting across the table from me were several CIA officials, including two men I will call Harry and Sam (not their real names), I didn’t know anything about the individuals before me except that they were with the CIA and knowledgeable about the interrogation program.

…Harry and Sam walked me through specific examples of how the interrogations had helped disrupt a series of terrorist plots in this way, showing me how information from a particular terrorist custody had led to the capture of other specific individuals, who in turn led us to other individuals, until the plots had been disrupted. These disrupted plots are detailed in Courting Disaster.

For example, information from detainees in CIA custody led to the arrest of an al-Qaeda terrorist named Jose Padilla, who was sent to America on a mission to blow up high-rise apartment buildings in the United States.

Information from detainees in CIA custody led to the capture of a cell of Southeast Asian terrorists which had been tasked by KSM to hijack a passenger jet and fly it into the Library Tower in Los Angeles.

Information from detainees in CIA custody led to the capture of Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, KSM’s right-hand-man in the 9/11 attacks, just as he was finalizing plans for a plot to hijack airplanes in Europe and fly them into Heathrow airport and buildings in downtown London.

Information from detainees in CIA custody led to the capture of Ammar al-Baluchi and Walid bin Attash, just as they were completing plans to replicate the destruction of our embassies in East Africa by blowing up the U.S. consulate and Western residences in Karachi, Pakistan.

Information from detainees in CIA custody led to the disruption of an al-Qaeda plot to blow up the U.S. Marine camp in Djibouti, in an attack that could have rivaled the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

Information from detainees in CIA custody helped break up an al-Qaeda cell that was developing anthrax for terrorist attacks inside the United States.

In addition to helping break up these specific terrorist cells and plots, CIA questioning provided our intelligence community with an unparalleled body of information about al-Qaeda — giving U.S. officials a picture of the terrorist organization as seen from the inside, at a time when we knew almost nothing about the enemy who had attacked us on 9/11.

In addition, CIA detainees helped identify some 86 individuals whom al-Qaeda deemed suitable for Western operations — most of whom we had never heard of before. According to the intelligence community, about half of these individuals were subsequently tracked down and taken off the battlefield. Without CIA questioning, many of these terrorists could still be unknown to us and at large — and may well have carried out attacks against the West by now.
Until the program was temporarily suspended in 2006, well over half of the information our government had about al-Qaeda — how it operates, how it moves money, how it communicates, how it recruits operatives, how it picks targets, how it plans and carries out attacks — came from the interrogation of terrorists in CIA custody.

Another reason the program was so effective, Harry and Sam explained, was that because the terrorists were in a secure location, CIA officials could also expose sensitive information to them — asking them to explain the meaning of materials captured in terrorist raids, and to indentify phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and voices in recordings of intercepted communications. This could never be done if the terrorists were being held in a facility where they had regular contact with the outside world. The danger of this information getting out would have been far too great.

Harry and Sam told me that the agency believed without the program the terrorists would have succeeded in striking our country again. Harry put it bluntly: “It is the reason we have not had another 9/11.”

“If you want to know what really happened” at the “CIA interrogation sites and at Guantanamo Bay,” says former Vice President Dick Cheney, “you simply must read this book.” As Thiessen notes in the introduction, he shouldn’t have had to write this book. But someone had to tell the true stories of our brave and heroic men and women who worked behind the scenes to prevent future plots while politicians postured, newspapers blabbed, and transnationalists blamed the real victims.

In Courting Disaster, Thiessen fills the vacuum and performs an invaluable public service. He’s a hero, too.

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