It's hard to believe that former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen's media beating could get any worse. Thiessen, who has been on a book tour promoting Bush-era torture policies and accusing President Obama's administration of coddling terrorists, has been the object of take-downs for weeks. Jon Stewart hounded him in an extended interview. Liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias, challenging Thiessen, wrote perhaps the best pundit pummeling in months.
The New Yorker's Jane Mayer managed to top them all. Mayer, an accomplished investigative reporter who has covered national security for years, reads Thiessen's book. She dismantles it from top to bottom, accusing Thiessen at distorting "to the point of falsification":
Thiessen is better at conveying fear than at relaying the facts. His account of the foiled Heathrow plot, for example, is “completely and utterly wrong,” according to Peter Clarke, who was the head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism branch in 2006. “The deduction that what was being planned was an attack against airliners was entirely based upon intelligence gathered in the U.K.,” Clarke said, adding that Thiessen’s “version of events is simply not recognized by those who were intimately involved in the airlines investigation in 2006.”Mayer goes point-by-point through Thiessen's central claims and arguments, presenting discrediting factual evidence at every turn. She goes on to make a full-throated counter-argument:
Tellingly, Thiessen does not address the many false confessions given by detainees under torturous pressure, some of which have led the U.S. tragically astray. Nowhere in this book, for instance, does the name Ibn Sheikh al-Libi appear. In 2002, the C.I.A., under an expanded policy of extraordinary rendition, turned Libi over to Egypt to be brutalized. Under duress, Libi falsely linked Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s alleged biochemical-weapons program, in Iraq. In February, 2003, former Secretary of State Colin Powell gave an influential speech in which he made the case for going to war against Iraq and prominently cited this evidence.
She concludes, however, by admonishing not Thiessen but President Obama: