Former High Level CIA Official: ‘The People Who Say’ Torture ‘Directly Led To Catching Bin Laden Are Wrong’

The details of how U.S. intelligence officials put information together to locate Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan are starting to come out and a lot of attention has been focused on bin Laden’s courier. The New York Times reported yesterday that U.S. interrogators first heard of the Qaeda courier by his nom de guerre, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, in 2002 or 2003, but it wasn’t until 2004 that they discovered what he did:

In 2004, however, a Qaeda operative named Hassan Ghul, captured in Iraq, gave a different account of Mr. Kuwaiti, according to the American official. Mr. Ghul told interrogators that Mr. Kuwaiti was a trusted courier who was close to Bin Laden, as well as to Mr. Mohammed and to Abu Faraj al-Libi, who had become the operational chief of Al Qaeda after Mr. Mohammed’s capture.

Since President Obama announced bin Laden’s death, conservative torture apologists have been arguing that President Bush’s enhanced interrogation techniques (torture) were responsible for nabbing the Al Qaeda leader. As such, the right wing will presumably be aroused by this L.A. Times report today:

The CIA had approved use of sleep deprivation, slapping, nudity, water dousing and other coercive techniques at the now-closed CIA “black site” in Poland where the Pakistani-born detainee, Hassan Ghul, was held, according to a 2005 Justice Department memo, which cited Ghul by name. Two U.S. officials said Wednesday that some of those now-prohibited practices were directed at Ghul.

Torture works! Right? Well not exactly. Later in the L.A. Times article, an unnamed former high level CIA official noted that these torture apologists shouldn’t get too excited:

“I think the issue has been mischaracterized on both sides,” said a former CIA official who was involved in internal debate over the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques program at the time. “The people who say ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ directly led to catching Bin Laden are wrong, and the people who say they had nothing to do with it are also wrong.”

Glenn Calme, a former CIA official who led the interrogation of a high level terror detainee, told ThinkProgress yesterday that, indeed, it is possible that EITs will produce information from time to time. “Does it justify using them?” he asked, “A categorical flat no.” Calme also said that “almost all the information obtained from EITs was recalled…because it was viewed as unreliable,” adding that they “are wrong, illegal, and they don’t work.”

CIA Director Leon Panetta said on Tuesday that “there was some valuable information that were derived through those kinds of interrogations.” But when asked if he thinks Obama’s policy to outlaw torture should be revisited, Panetta replied, “No, I really don’t.”