Back in 2007, the chattering class was mesmerized by an ABC interview with John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent who claimed that the agency waterboarded Abu Zubaydah, and that he immediately cracked and delivered good information in a timely manner. We were treated to a round of “does waterboarding work?” stories and the like, pivoting off of Kiriakou’s claim that Zubaydah’s intelligence thwarted “dozens of attacks.”

Three years later, Kiriakou has revealed that it was all B.S.

Well, it’s official now: John Kiriakou, the former CIA operative who affirmed claims that waterboarding quickly unloosed the tongues of hard-core terrorists, says he didn’t know what he was talking about […]

On the next-to-last page of a new memoir, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror (written with Michael Ruby), Kiriakou now rather off handedly admits that he basically made it all up.

“What I told Brian Ross in late 2007 was wrong on a couple counts,” he writes. “I suggested that Abu Zubaydah had lasted only thirty or thirty-five seconds during his waterboarding before he begged his interrogators to stop; after that, I said he opened up and gave the agency actionable intelligence.”

But never mind, he says now.

“I wasn’t there when the interrogation took place; instead, I relied on what I’d heard and read inside the agency at the time.”

None of this will do anyone any good now. Kiriakou made his mark when his comments were used by torture advocates in 2007 to bolster their case. The fact that it was all hearsay is irrelevant today. Indeed, polls show support for torture among the public, and Kiriakou played a role in that.

Meanwhile, this is yet another example of why Brian Ross is the worst journalist in American history.

David Dayen

David Dayen