A "former" CIA officer named John Kiriakou told ABC News that spies broke an al Qaeda terrorist in "30, 35 seconds," using waterboarding. The story spread everywhere. Of course it was a horrific lie.

Kiriakou told ABC's Brian Ross the alleged terrorist, Abu Zubayadah, broke in less than a minute and "from that day on he answered every question." The story spread to the major press outlets, and conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and National Review's Jonah Goldberg used it to defend waterboarding.

It turned out the torture technique didn't work so well: CIA agents tried to break Zubayadah with it 83 times, according to a declassified government document. That doesn't sound quick or easy.In tomorrow's front-page New York Times story, Ross defended his source, but sounds a little bitter:

"I didn't give enough credit to the fiendishness of the C.I.A."

Right, because a news reporter didn't have any reason, in 2007, to believe a representative of the CIA would provide false information about crucial decisions, or abet awful human rights abuses.

(In fairness, though, Fox's 24 made torture cool way before ABC News.)

[NY Times, now admirably incorporating advanced cross-site hyper-link technology!]