In the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's death, numerous right-wing media figures have insisted that the United States would never have found him without information obtained through torture. However, there is considerable dispute among experts over whether torture played a role in developing critical intelligence that led officials to bin Laden's whereabouts.
Media Conservatives Declare Victory For Torture
Hannity: “It Is Very Obvious Now That Enhanced Interrogations ... Led To The Intelligence.” [Fox News, Hannity, 5/3/11, via Nexis]
Karl Rove: “We Now Know” That “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques ... Led To The Code Word, Code Name.” [Fox News, Hannity, 5/3/11, via Nexis]
Wall Street Journal: Death Of Bin Laden “Looks To Be A Vindication Of Mr. Bush's Interrogation Policies.” [The Wall Street Journal, 5/2/11]
Jim Hoft: “Waterboarded Terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed” Gave Intel Leading To Bin Laden's Death. [Gateway Pundit, 5/2/11]
Dana Loesch: “God Bless George W. Bush For Implementing Enhanced Interrogation.” [KFTK, The Dana Show, 5/2/11]
But Experts Say It's Unclear Any Key Intel Was Generated Via Torture
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair: “To The Best Of Our Knowledge,” None Of The Intelligence “Came As A Result Of Harsh Interrogation Practices.” From a May 3 post on TPM Muckraker:
More and more evidence suggests a key piece of intelligence -- the first link in the chain of information that led U.S. intelligence officials to Osama bin Laden -- wasn't tortured out of its source. And, indeed, that torture actually failed to produce it.
“To the best of our knowledge, based on a look, none of it came as a result of harsh interrogation practices,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a wide-ranging press conference.
Moreover, Feinstein added, nothing about the sequence of events that culminated in Sunday's raid vindicates the Bush-era techniques, nor their use of black sites -- secret prisons, operated by the CIA.
“Absolutely not, I do not,” Feinstein said. “I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and in my view nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used.” [TPM Muckraker, 5/3/11]
NSC Dismissed Efficacy Of Torture In Developing Intel On Bin Laden. The New York Times reported:
Glenn L. Carle, a retired C.I.A. officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002, said in a phone interview Tuesday, that coercive techniques “didn't provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information.” He said that while some of his colleagues defended the measures, “everyone was deeply concerned and most felt it was un-American and did not work.”
Obama administration officials, intent on celebrating Monday's successful raid, have tried to avoid reigniting a partisan battle over torture.
“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,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council. “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 New York Times, 5/4/11]
The New Yorker: “This Timeline Doesn't Seem To Provide A Lot Of Support For The Pro-Torture Narrative.” From a May 2 post on the website of The New Yorker:
Many key details are still missing. But according to the New York Times, the turning point came when detainees being held in Guantánamo--not in the C.I.A.'s secret black-site prisons--revealed to American interrogators the pseudonym used by a key bin Laden courier, whom they also identified as a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Then, four years ago, American interrogators were able to learn the real name of the courier. It then took two more years, according to the Times, before American officials were able to piece together the geographic region in which he operated. They didn't succeed in tracking him to the suspicious compound, in which bin Laden resided, until last August.
This timeline doesn't seem to provide a lot of support for the pro-torture narrative. One would think that if so-called “enhanced interrogations” provided the magic silver bullet, and if the courier was a protégé of K.S.M.'s, then the C.I.A. might have wrapped this up back in 2003, while they were waterboarding the 9/11 mastermind a hundred and eighty-three times. Despite these contradictions and complications, the two sides on the torture debate are already off and running. [NewYorker.com, 5/2/11]
Deputy National Security Advisor: Integral Intelligence Was Not Obtained By Waterboarding “To My Knowledge.” From the May 3 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: So we've been talking about the different details and methods that led up to this moment, and obviously there is word out today that waterboarding played a very big role or a role in actually getting the information that was integral in finding Bin Laden. Is that the case?
JOHN BRENNAN: Not to my knowledge. The information that was acquired over the course of nine years or so came from many different sources: human sources, technical sources, as well as information that detainees provided. And it was something as a result of the painstaking work that the analysts did. They pieced it all together that lead us to the Abbottabad compound last year and resulted in the very successful operation on Sunday. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 5/3/11]
CIA Director Panetta: Whether Torture Was Needed To Track Bin Laden “Is Always Going To Be An Open Question.” From the May 3 edition of NBC Nightly News:
LEON PANETTA: We had a multiple source -- a multiple series of sources -- that provided information with regards to this situation. Clearly, some of it came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees. But we also had information from other sources as well. So, it's a little difficult to say it was due just to one source of information that we got.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Turned around the other way, are you denying that waterboarding was in part among the tactics used to extract the intelligence that led to this successful mission?
PANETTA: No, I think some of the detainees clearly were, you know, they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. But I'm also saying that, you know, the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always going to be an open question. [NBC, NBC Nightly News, 5/3/11, via RealClearPolitics]
TPM: Attorney General Said “He Didn't Know” If Information Obtained Through Torture Led US To Bin Laden. From a May 3 post on TPM Muckraker:
Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that he didn't know if any information obtained from detainees undergoing enhanced interrogation techniques lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
“There was a mosaic of sources that lead to the identification of the people” who lead to bin Laden, Holder told members of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Pressed by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) on whether any information used to find bin Laden came out during enhanced interrogation, Holder said he didn't know. [TPM Muckraker, 5/3/11]