The killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has reignited the debate over torture. Advocates of “enhanced interrogation techniques” argue the mission validates their position, while others contend that tough questioning played a small role.
Former Bush administration officials, such as John Yoo, who authored memos justifying the techniques, and members of Congress, such as House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., were quick to claim vindication. However, The New York Times
reported that the techniques played a small role at best in identifying the courier that led to bin Laden’s lair.
One prisoner who was subjected to “tough treatment” provided a description of the courier. However, two prisoners, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was water boarded repeatedly, did not give up the man and, in fact, tried to send interrogators down a false path, the Times reported.
Retired CIA officer Glenn Carle, who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002, told the Times that harsh techniques “didn’t provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information.” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said. “The bottom line is this: If we had some kind of smoking-gun intelligence from waterboarding in 2003, we would have taken out Osama bin Laden in 2003.
“It took years of collection and analysis from many different sources to develop the case that enabled us to identify this compound, and reach a judgment that bin Laden was likely to be living there,” the Times reported.
However, a former head of counterterrorism at the CIA told Time
magazine that harsh questioning did indeed produce the information that led to bin Laden. Jose Rodriguez, who ran the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center from 2002 to 2005, told the magazine that “information provided by KSM and Abu Faraj al-Libbi about bin Laden’s courier was the lead information that eventually led to the location of [bin Laden’s] compound and the operation that led to his death.”
“Both KSM and al-Libbi were held at CIA black sites and subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. Abu Faraj was not waterboarded, but his information on the courier was key,” Rodriguez told Time.
Rodriguez acknowledged that the United States is unlikely to be using the enhanced techniques, saying: “We’ve given up on this, and so much has happened that it would be very difficult for any Administration to bring it back. It’s unfortunate because . . . it will be hard for people in important positions to be able to deal with terrorists.”
The National Security Council’s Vietor told the magazine that the debate over whether to use techniques that could constitute torture distracts from the accomplishment of bin Laden’s death, which he said came after years of “painstaking work by our intelligence community that drew from multiple sources.”
“It’s not fair to the scores of people who did this work over many years to suggest that this is somehow all the result of waterboarding eight years ago,” he said.
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