Torturous evasions

CIA Director Leon Panetta stomped on the White House’s political script when he told Tuesday night’s broadcast of NBC Nightly News that the waterboarding of jihadi detainees contributed information that led to the location and killing of Osama bin Laden.

“We had multiple series of sources that provided information with regards to this situation… clearly some of it came from detainees [and] they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of those detainees,” he told NBC anchor Brian Williams.

When asked by Williams if water-boarding was part of the “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Panetta simply said “that’s correct.”

Throughout the day, White House officials had pushed back at claims that water-boarding or other enhanced interrogation techniques produced the information that eventually led to Osama bin Laden.

“The fact is that no single piece of information led to the successful mission,” White House spokesman Carney told reporters at Tuesday’s White House press conference. He also said that administration officials are not reconsidering the administration’s opposition to tougher interrogation practices. There is “no change whatsoever,” he said.

Several former Bush administration officials previously told TheDC that there’s persuasive evidence that the intelligence surrounding bin Laden’s location stemmed from enhanced interrogation of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or other terror suspects at CIA black sites around the world.

Data from tough interrogations has been integrated with information that emerged from softer interrogations at Guantanamo Bay.

But several Democratic-affiliated constituencies are fiercely opposed to enhanced interrogations. They include much of the legal bar, progressive groups such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, and anti-war groups. Obama courted all three groups during the 2008 election.

Attorney General Eric Holder followed Carney’s script at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday morning. There “was a mosaic of sources that led to the identification of people who led” authorities to bin Laden, he said, when asked about the role of tough interrogation. When Rep. Dan Lungren, California Republican, asked Holder if any pieces of that mosaic of sources were a result of enhanced interrogation techniques, Holder evaded the question, saying he wasn’t sure.

“Multiple detainees provided insights,” Carney told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “Reporting from detainees is a slice of the information that has been gathered by incredibly diligent specialists over the years in the intelligence community, and it simply strains credulity to suggest that a piece of information that may nor may not have been gathered eight years ago somehow directly led to the successful mission on Sunday,” he said.

“That’s just not the case.”

Carney did not explicitly reject the claim that tough interrogations provided the first clue – reportedly, the nickname of bin Laden’s personal courier – that seems to have indirectly and eventually led to bin Laden’s hideout.

During the House hearing, Lungren asked Holder if the mission against bin Laden would have been illegal, if any of the intelligence regarding his whereabouts came from enhanced interrogation. Holder evaded the legal question by using a tortured response, saying “I think that, in terms of the attenuation between those acts that might have been problematic and the action that was taken just two days ago I think was sufficiently long so that the action would still be considered legal.”

In his NBC interview where he said water-boarding was used in the interrogations that provided the data, Panetta did leave his colleagues in the administration a political fig-leaf. “Whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches,” he said,  “I think is always going to be an open question.”

TheDC’s Matt Boyle co-wrote this article.

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  • mapletree

    The very things they harshly criticized Bush/Cheney for (waterboarding and keeping GITMO open), this administration uses to find and kill Osama.

    • lrgon

      Waterboarding goes back to the days of the Spanish Inquisition so I suppose Leon Panetta is justified that water boarding worked since it only took TEN FRIGGIN YEARS!

      That is not a very good use of resources to use up ten years to do what we are told happened.

      Should we allow the “truthers” to get a hold of the people they have accused of aiding or opening the door to the terrorists? Do you suggest torturing the CIA and FBI managers?

      There is evidence that al-Qaeda was running around like keystone cops and our intellligence servies knew their every move.

      You have a guy who can’t speak English and needs a translator; he’s from an Arab or Muslim country and the USS Cole has been hit and other events have been attributed to al-Qaeda terrorists but nothing the al-Qaeda hijackers do concerns or raises suspicions of the FBI and CIA! Why is it so hard to figure that when an Arab looking man people pays a school to teach him how to fly a plane but not learn to land it that this strage behavior from a foreigner with a peculiar accent doesn’t warrant confiscating his lap top and searching his apartment?

      Do you suggest getting at the truth by torturing FBI and CIA agents to tell us why they didn’t arrest these people and take them in for questioning?

      That it took ten long years to get the most wanted millioniare in the world should tell you something about the uselessness of torture.

  • erick1740

    This just keeps getting worse for obama and his cast of stooges. They cannot get the story right, it keeps changing every few minutes. This will go down in history as a complete justification of the Bush , Cheney policies bringing us victory and national safety. The facts are coming out daily.

  • Remag1234

    How long with Leon Panetta keep his job.

  • truebearing

    Here is something that will shed some light on the cluster f**k we call the Obama administration:

  • apollospeaks


    Sometimes desperate men do desperate things to save themselves from failure and defeat. And such a man is Barack Hussein Obama. Indeed, our blundering, ill-starred, failing president faced with a faultering economy, rising deficits, a weakening dollar and turmoil in the Middle East ordered the death of Osama bin Laden as a desperate measure to save his disastrous presidency. That is the truth. Patriotism, national security, the common good had little or nothing to do with Obama’s “gutsy” move. For Obama is too political, too partisan, to un-American and narcissistic for that. What Obama did on the historic night of May 1st he did mostly for himself-for his political fortunes and legacy. Did he have the tragedy of 9/11 in mind, and the deaths of 3000 Americans? No! Not the man who backed the Islamist mosque at Ground Zero; not the man who sat in a racist church for 20 years listening to the lunatic ravings of an American hating preacher who saw in 9/11 the avenging hand of God. Not the power grabbing, big government statist who hates this unjust, capitalist country to such an inordinate degree that he wants to “fundamentally and foundationally” transform it. What Obama did on May 1st was not for me and you, but for he….

    Click my name to read the rest of this piece.

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  • Kurtis D. Davis

    Why is there no mention that George Washington condemned torture, same as homosexual conduct? If we “enhanced” Bush’s personal security with a jail cell, do you think he would know the difference? Do you believe that two wrongs make a right? Do you realize that “enhanced interogation” equates to Chinese water torture? Why did the Swiss recently inform Bush that in their country, he would be tried for crime, as per “enhanced interogation”? Is it impossible that the same intelligence information could have been, and perhaps was, obtained without “enhanced” methods (torture)? Should our enemy believe in the Geneva rules, if in their opinion it is clear that we do not? Did bin Laden win some victory by causing us to abandon our Constitution (“Patriot Act”) and other principles of justice? DO YOU GIVE A DAMN?