A reader writes:

I was finally moved to write you in response to today's "Imaginationland" post. I think you've connected a couple of very important dots here, and it reminded me of something I read more than a year ago in a Washington Post book review of Ron Suskind's "One Percent Doctrine."

Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."

The time frame here is mid-2002 and, according to Suskind, Abu Zubaydah was the first guinea pig for these techniques. In that case, it seems unlikely that an October 2001 bomb scare would be based on information derived from torture (or at least U.S. torture; the info could always have come from less scrupulous sources overseas). But by Suskind's account, the dynamic you describe has been distorting U.S. policy for at least five years now.

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