In light of The Washington Post's decision to hire former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen as a weekly columnist, Media Matters for America has documented several false, dubious, or outrageous claims Thiessen has made about national security and terrorism. In addition, Thiessen has repeatedly baselessly attacked the Obama administration over its handling of national security and terrorism.
Wash. Post hires Thiessen as weekly columnist
Thiessen announced his "New Weekly Column for the Washington Post." On February 12, Thiessen announced in a National Review Online post that "[t]he Washington Post has asked me to write a new weekly online column."
But Thiessen has a history of false, dubious, or outrageous claims about national security and terrorism
Thiessen dubiously claimed that the use of harsh interrogation techniques on KSM thwarted attack in Los Angeles. Thiessen claimed on April 17, 2009, that the use of harsh interrogation techniques -- including waterboarding -- on Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) "stopped an attack on the Library Tower in Los Angeles." Thiessen repeated these claims in an April 21, 2009, Washington Post op-ed. But that claim conflicts with the chronology of events put forth on multiple occasions by the Bush administration, as Slate.com's Timothy Noah has noted. Indeed, the Bush administration said that the Library Tower attack was thwarted in February 2002 -- more than a year before Mohammed was captured in March 2003.
Thiessen falsely claimed that there were no domestic terror attacks under Bush after 9-11. In a January 22, 2009, Washington Post op-ed, Thiessen falsely claimed, "When President Bush left office on Tuesday, America marked 2,688 days without a terrorist attack on its soil." In fact, as Media Matters has noted, several domestic attacks took place under Bush after 9-11.
Thiessen falsely equated waterboarding of detainees with U.S. military training. On the January 20 edition of CNN's Amanpour, Thiessen stated: "We -- we waterboarded in the CIA -- the CIA waterboarded three terrorists, just three. ... You know who else the U.S. government has waterboarded? Tens of thousands of American servicemembers during their [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape] training." However, the Bush administration Department of Justice and Senate Armed Services Committee agree that the two are not comparable, as those who undergo certain interrogation techniques in such training programs are aware that there are safeguards and know they can stop the training immediately if necessary.
Thiessen has repeatedly attacked Obama and his administration over national security issues
Thiessen: "Americans may die as result" of Obama's "irresponsible" decision to release torture memos. In his April 21, 2009, Washington Post op-ed discussing the Obama administration's release of classified documents regarding the CIA's interrogation program, Thiessen stated, "President Obama's decision to release these documents is one of the most dangerous and irresponsible acts ever by an American president during a time of war -- and Americans may die as a result."
Thiessen claimed Obama threw U.S. military "under the bus" in Cairo speech. On the June 5, 2009, edition CNN's Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull (accessed via Nexis), discussing Obama's June 4 address at Cairo University, Thiessen said: "The president of the United States does not go to a foreign country, particularly to an Arab audience, where Al Qaeda's propaganda is echoing the things that you were saying just a moment ago about how we do all these terrible things and feed into that propaganda ... [i]t was a shameful thing for the commander in chief of the United States Armed Forces to do to the men and women under his command." Thiessen later accused Obama of "throwing [the military] under the bus in a foreign audience."
Thiessen: Stopping terrorist attacks "is not the first priority of the Obama administration." On the November 24, 2009, of Fox News' Your World (accessed via Nexis), Thiessen stated, "Our first priority in the Bush administration was to stop terrorist attacks. This is not the first priority of the Obama administration." Thiessen further claimed that "[t]he Obama administration's first priority is to -- is to prosecute these people, read them their Miranda rights. Can you imagine what would have happened if we said to KSM you have the right to remain silent?"
Thiessen: "Dumbest thing we could possibly do" was Mirandize Abdulmutallab. On the February 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Thiessen claimed that the "absolutely dumbest thing we could possibly do" was to "tell [suspected Northwest Airlines bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab] that he has the right to remain silent." Thiessen further claimed that the Obama administration is "politicizing" the handling of Abdulmutallab.