Wasn’t that debunked already?

WASN’T THAT DEBUNKED ALREADY?…. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) cited in a committee hearing the infamous ABC News interview with John Kiriakou. It was a 2007 report in which Kiriakou, a former CIA interrogator, said Abu Zubaydah broke quickly under Bush-endorsed “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

The report was a conservative favorite, since it seems to support the right’s principal argument — morality and the law notwithstanding, the administration’s torture tactics produced valuable results.

What Graham neglected to mention is that the ABC News report has since been debunked. Even the network itself has followed up by disavowing its report.

Graham referenced this ABC News story, which aired former CIA officer John Kiriakou’s unverified and second-hand claims that suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah broke after being waterboarded for under a minute. Graham said the suspect had been broken “within 35 seconds.”

Unfortunately for Graham, that ABC story is the same one that got lots of attention last month, including a front-page piece in The New York Times, because it was contradicted by the revelation in the torture memos that Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded over 80 times.

After that Times piece ran, ABC itself did another story conceding that its earlier one had been wrong.

When told that the ABC report he was relying on had already been debunked, Graham apologized, acknowledged that he wasn’t prepared for today’s hearing, and conceded he didn’t know what he was talking about.

No, no, I’m just kidding. Graham actually just stared blankly for a moment before changing the subject, unwilling to admit his humiliating mistake.

There’s also, of course, the larger question of why Graham is going down this road in the first place. He’s one of the handful of GOP lawmakers who pretends to find torture offensive. Why, then, would it matter if torture broke Abu Zubaydah in 35 seconds? The claim itself is clearly wrong, but is Graham’s new argument that torture is now acceptable just so long as it’s brief?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.