MSNBC Host Revives Disputed Claim That Waterboarding Led To Bin Laden’s Death

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough propagated the myth on Monday that torturing suspected terrorist detainees eventually led to the death of Osama bin Laden. Scarborough was discussing the upcoming film “Zero Dark Thirty,” which depicts the events leading up to and including the raid that killed the al Qaeda leader last year.

New York Magazine’s David Edelstein said the movie “makes a case for the efficacy of torture” and on Morning Joe today, Scarborough agreed:

SCARBOROUGH: The truth that Barack Obama learned the first briefing that he got after he won the election and that is that the CIA program, whether you find it repugnant or not, actually was effective with KSM [9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed] and other people getting actionable intelligence that led to couriers that eventually led to years later to the killing of Osama bin Laden. […]

I had to listen to people tell me on this program for years that the CIA didn’t work. Waterboarding didn’t work and I knew that that was not true. It did get information from Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other terrorists that eventually led to not just the killing of Osama bin Laden but a lot of victories. And you can say it’s immoral, you can say it’s wrong, just like you can say Lincoln buying off a congressman with a patronage job, suspending habeus corpus doing a lot of awful things to end slavery and win the war was also actions that would make us uncomfortable in the finest dining rooms in Georgetown and on the upper east side.

Watch the clip:

While Scarborough didn’t provide any evidence to back up his case, experts, government officials and Republican lawmakers have said that waterboarding and other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” did not yield the key information that led to bin Laden. The name of bin Laden’s courier was what eventually led intelligence officials to bin Laden’s whereabouts in Pakistan. And as the AP reported last year, former officials said that “Mohammed did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding” and that “[h]e identified them many months later under standard interrogation.”


”This idea we caught bin Laden because of waterboarding I think is a misstatement,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said last year. Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) has also said that the information that led to bin Laden did not come from torture.

Hassan Ghul reportedly provided the most information on bin Laden’s courier. The New York Times reported last year that the CIA “says he was not waterboarded.” The same article said the Bush administration had authorized harsh techniques on Ghul, but that “it is unclear which [techniques] were used.” While the Los Angeles Times reported that U.S. officials said “that some of those now-prohibited practices were directed at Ghul,” it’s unclear when they were used and if they yielded valuable intelligence.

One former CIA official who participated in the Bush administration’s internal debate on torture said “the issue has been mischaracterized” on both sides. “The people who say ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ directly led to catching Bin Laden are wrong,” he said, “and the people who say they had nothing to do with it are also wrong.”

Indeed, torture reportedly “played a small role at most in identifying Bin Laden’s trusted courier and exposing his hide-out,” but that doesn’t mean they work or should be used. One former CIA interrogator said that it’s “possible” to obtain information using torture but that it’s never justified, and that “almost all the information obtained from EITs was recalled…because it was viewed as unreliable.” Indeed, he said the techniques “didn’t provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information.”

If President Obama discovered after he was elected that waterboarding and other harsh techniques were “effective” in getting bin Laden, as Scarborough said they were, then why did he ban their use? (HT: Media Matters)