The New York Times reported today that some of the information that led U.S. intelligence officials to ultimately determine Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts was obtained from detainees at Guantanamo Bay:
The real breakthrough came when they finally figured out the name and location of Bin Laden’s most trusted courier, whom the Qaeda chief appeared to rely on to maintain contacts with the outside world.
Detainees at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had given the courier’s pseudonym to American interrogators and said that the man was a protégé of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the confessed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Torture apologists on the right immediately extrapolated from this passage in the Times that this information was gleaned from using “enhanced interrogation” techniques (i.e. torture). Former Bush administration speechwriter Marc Theissen wrote that “it turns out the detainees in question were KSM and Abu Faraj al-Libi” (although it’s unclear how he knows this) and noted that both were tortured. Thus:
Before coming to Gitmo, both were held by the CIA as part of the agency’s enhanced interrogation program, and provided the information that led to bin Laden’s death after undergoing interrogation by the CIA. In other words, the crowning achievement of Obama’s presidency came as a direct result of the CIA interrogation program he has denigrated and shut down.
Bush torture program architect John Yoo agreed:
Also, buried in the stories may be yet another sign of the vindication of the Bush administration’s war on terror policies. Anonymous government sources say that the al Qaeda courier who led our intelligence people to bin Laden was a protege of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks who was captured in 2002, subjected to enhanced interrogation methods, and yielded a trove of intelligence on al Qaeda.
Dick Cheney said today that “it wouldn’t be surprising” the intel came from Bush’s torture program. However, there is currently no evidence to suggest that the detainees that provided the information that led to bin Laden were subject to torture. And Bush Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who presumably has some knowledge about what went on at Gitmo, today threw some cold water on this theory:
“The United States Department of Defense did not do waterboarding for interrogation purposes to anyone. It is true that some information that came from normal interrogation approaches at Guantanamo did lead to information that was beneficial in this instance. But it was not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding.”
Without any evidence, and without Rumsfeld’s blessing, it seems like conservatives are going to have to work a little bit harder at trying to take credit for bin Laden’s death.