As ABC News notes:
The revelation that intelligence gleaned from the CIA’s so-called black sites helped kill bin Laden was seen as vindication for many intelligence officials who have been repeatedly investigated and criticized for their involvement in a program that involved the harshest interrogation methods in U.S. history.
“We got beat up for it, but those efforts led to this great day,” said Marty Martin, a retired CIA officer who for years led the hunt for bin Laden.
But as ABC notes in the next paragraph:
Mohammed did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He identified them many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.
Reuters points out:
But the possibility that detainees who at some point were subjected to physical coercion later gave up information leading to bin Laden’s discovery is sparking discussion among intelligence experts as to whether he could have been found without them.
“It will reignite a debate that hasn’t gone away about the morality and ethicacy of certain techniques,” said Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
In reality, top interrogation experts (both conservative and liberal) agree that torture is an ineffective interrogation method which leads to false, unusable information:
- Head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service: No Loss of Intelligence Since We Stopped Waterboarding
- General Petraeus: Torture is Unnecessary, Hurts Our National Security and Violates Our American Values
- Former British intelligence chairman all but calls Bush liar, says waterboarding didn’t stop terror plots
- One of the Military’s Top Interrogators Says Torture Cost Hundreds ‘If Not Thousands’ Of American Lives
Moreover, the type of torture used since 9/11 was a special type of torture specifically aimed at creating false confessions:
- Under torture, Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi claimed there was a link between Saddam Hussein, al-Qaida and WMD
- One of the Main Sources for the 9/11 Commission Report was Tortured Until He Agreed to Sign a Confession that He Was NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO READ
- 9/11 Mastermind: “During … My Interrogation I Gave A Lot Of False Information In Order To Satisfy What I Believed The Interrogators Wished To Hear”
- Most of the 9/11 Commission Report was Based on 3rd Hand Reports of What People Said While Being Tortured
And see this.
Moreover, as I noted yesterday, we didn’t need to torture anyone to catch Bin Laden:
According to the U.S. Senate – Bin Laden was “within the grasp” of the U.S. military in Afghanistan in December 2001, but that then-secretary of defense Rumsfeld refused to provide the soldiers necessary to capture him.
This is not news: it was disclosed in 2005 by the CIA field commander for the area in Afghanistan where Bin Laden was holed up.
In addition, French soldiers allegedly say that they easily could have captured or killed Bin Laden in Afghanistan, but that the American commanders stopped them.
A retired Colonel and Fox News military analyst said that the U.S. could have killed Bin Laden in 2007, but didn’t:
We know, with a 70 percent level of certainty — which is huge in the world of intelligence — that in August of 2007, bin Laden was in a convoy headed south from Tora Bora. We had his butt, on camera, on satellite. We were listening to his conversations. We had the world’s best hunters/killers — Seal Team 6 [Note: this is the exact same team that is credited with killing Bin Laden yesterday] — nearby. We had the world class Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) coordinating with the CIA and other agencies. We had unmanned drones overhead with missiles on their wings; we had the best Air Force on the planet, begging to drop one on the terrorist. We had him in our sights; we had done it ….Unbelievably, and in my opinion, criminally, we did not kill Usama bin Laden.
Indeed, a United States Congressman claims that the Bush administration intentionally let Bin Laden escape in order to justify the Iraq war.
Moreover, as I’ve previously noted, capturing Bin Laden and taking down Al Qaeda was never the real priority:
American historian, investigative journalist and policy analyst Gareth Porter writes in the Asia Times:
Three weeks after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld established an official military objective of not only removing the Saddam Hussein regime by force but overturning the regime in Iran, as well as in Syria and four other countries in the Middle East, according to a document quoted extensively in then-under secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith’s recently published account of the Iraq war decisions. Feith’s account further indicates that this aggressive aim of remaking the map of the Middle East by military force and the threat of force was supported explicitly by the country’s top military leaders.
Feith’s book, War and Decision, released last month, provides excerpts of the paper Rumsfeld sent to President George W Bush on September 30, 2001, calling for the administration to focus not on taking down Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network but on the aim of establishing “new regimes” in a series of states…
General Wesley Clark, who commanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing campaign in the Kosovo war, recalls in his 2003 book Winning Modern Wars being told by a friend in the Pentagon in November 2001 that the list of states that Rumsfeld and deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz wanted to take down included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan and Somalia [and Lebanon].
When this writer asked Feith . . . which of the six regimes on the Clark list were included in the Rumsfeld paper, he replied, “All of them.” [See this public speech by Clark on the genesis of the Iraq war]
The Defense Department guidance document made it clear that US military aims in regard to those states would go well beyond any ties to terrorism. The document said the Defense Department would also seek to isolate and weaken those states and to “disrupt, damage or destroy” their military capacities – not necessarily limited to weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Indeed, the goal seems to have more to do with being a superpower (i.e. an empire) than stopping terrorism.
As Porter writes:
A senior officer on the Joint Staff told State Department counter-terrorism director Sheehan he had heard terrorist strikes characterized more than once by colleagues as a “small price to pay for being a superpower”.
If we had really wanted to get Bin Laden, we would have gotten him in 2001 (indeed, the Taliban offered to turn him over), or 2007.
But we had “more important” things to do. Specifically, U.S. foreign policy was focused on regime change in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, and in strategic interests not directly related to terrorism.
Postscript: Experts say that torture is unnecessary even to prevent “ticking time bombs” from exploding (see this, this and this). Indeed, a top expert says that torture would fail in a real ‘ticking time-bomb’ situation.
And, yes … waterboarding is torture:
- President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Malcolm Nance (an advisor on terrorism to the US departments of Homeland Security, Special Operations and Intelligence), Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples (the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency) and many other interrogation experts and high-level politicians say that waterboarding is torture
- The United States has always considered waterboarding to be a crime of torture, including when the Japanese did it in WWII (and see this)
- Everyone claiming waterboarding is not torture has changed their tune as soon as they were exposed to even a small dose of it themselves. See this, this and this
But it wasn’t just waterboarding:
- Major General Antonio Taguba: Photos Show Sodomy, Rape and Sexual Assault With Wire and Various Blunt Instruments