Torture thrillist Marc Thiessen's book tour brought him to the set of "The Daily Show" last night, where he was basically eaten alive by Jon Stewart in a contentious interview that ended with Thiessen being the first guest in memory to actually whine about the way the interview went.
Thiessen's arguments were nothing new if you've been reading his recent spate of op-eds, and much of Stewart's pushback probably sounded familiar if you've read my own. Thiessen's basic argument is that you should consider the lawyers who represent detainees to be "al Qaeda lawyers," regardless if the detainees are innocent or guilty or if the truth reveals a lack of connection to al Qaeda. His response to the proud tradition of providing vigorous defense to unsympathetic defendants -- in the manner established by John Adams -- is to indulge in what Matt Yglesias calls "an epic hair-splitting gambit." And he continued to do the same hair-splitting in his insistence that the Gitmo detainees have not been "accused" of anything, so the attorneys who represent them are not performing a Constitutional duty -- rather, they are traitors.
Along the way, Thiessen also slammed interrogator Ali Soufan, who has long insisted that the torture regime that fortifies Thiessen's precious bodily fluids was not effective at gathering intelligence. Thiessen maintained that it was Soufan's techniques that failed.
Stewart objected to the notion that a perfect safety could be achieved, and criticized Thiessen for presenting selective evidence and pretending to know the "equation" by which America can be made safe.
Eventually, the interview wound down to the end of its televised segment, and Stewart averred that they were running out of time and that the full, unexpurgated interview would air online. Apparently, Thiessen isn't much of a new media fan, because he began to get all piss and moan about not getting to speak.
If you discount all the instances where Stewart and Thiessen talk over each other or "banter," you'll see that Thiessen got to speak for about four minutes and forty seconds out of this eleven and a half minute-long clip. So, that's the measure of just how shabbily Thiessen (who frankly has only about two minutes worth of thought rattling around his dome at any given time) was treated. Stewart, of course, apologized, with a measure of sincerity and snark, the balance of which I'll let viewers judge.
Anyway, we'll do our best to make sure that all of the interview gets seen by everyone.
Hey, Marc Thiessen is still pretending that enhanced interrogation techniques thwarted an attack on the Library Tower. This has been so widely debunked and discredited by now that it's astounding he continues to make the claim.
Here's Timothy Noah in Slate:
How could Sheikh Mohammed's water-boarded confession have prevented the Library Tower attack if the Bush administration "broke up" that attack during the previous year? It couldn't, of course. Conceivably the Bush administration, or at least parts of the Bush administration, didn't realize until Sheikh Mohammed confessed under torture that it had already broken up a plot to blow up the Library Tower about which it knew nothing. Stranger things have happened. But the plot was already a dead letter. If foiling the Library Tower plot was the reason to water-board Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, then that water-boarding was more than cruel and unjust. It was a waste of water.
Thiessen doesn't believe that the Army Field Manual is effective in handling high-value detainees, and that current interrogators abrogate its guidelines all the time. His contention is that the Field Manual bars interrogators from "threatening a detainee in any way." As Spencer Ackerman points out, Thiessen has a misunderstanding of this matter:
Thiessen objects to the use of the non-torture techniques outlined in the Army Field Manual on Interrogation against the highest-value detainees because the manual is "on the Internet" and terrorists can train against it. That's just a flat-out misunderstanding of the field manual in particular and the interrogations process itself. The field manual does not and never has required only the use of those techniques it lists, but it proscribes physical and psychological abuse. That's why people like Abdulmutallab can, say, have their parents' opprobrium be used against them, a technique not explicitly listed in the field manual but still legally and morally kosher -- and proven to be effective.
Jon Stewart: "I would be confortable with us doing to any detainee what I would be comfortable with other countries doing to our guys." In case you've ever wondered what a "moral compass" looks like, there you go.