In a word, it was hearsay, water-cooler talk.
"Now we know," Kiriakou goes on, "that Zubaydah was waterboarded eighty-three times in a single month, raising questions about how much useful information he actually supplied."
Indeed. But after his one-paragraph confession, Kiriakou adds that he didn't have any first hand knowledge of anything relating to CIA torture routines, and still doesn't. And he claims that the disinformation he helped spread was a CIA dirty trick: "In retrospect, it was a valuable lesson in how the CIA uses the fine arts of deception even among its own."
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano dodged that mud ball.
"While I haven't read John's book, the line about deception doesn't make any sense," Gimigliano told me last week. "He apparently didn't know as much as he thought he did. That's a very different matter."
Some time ago, as it turns out, ABC quietly "updated" the story. A few paragraphs down on the front page of the website version of its Kiriakou yarn, it says, "see endnote."
A click or two later, Kiriakou, who later went to work for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, explains to readers:
"When I spoke to ABC News in December 2007 I was aware of Abu Zubaydah being water boarded on one occasion. It was after this one occasion that he revealed information related to a planned terrorist attack. As I said in the original interview, my information was second-hand. I never participated in the use of enhanced techniques on Abu Zubaydah or on any other prisoner, nor did I witness the use of such techniques."