Fruits of Osama bin Laden intelligence possibly fell from Obama’s forbidden tree

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Former George W. Bush administration intelligence and national security officials tell The Daily Caller that the intelligence President Barack Obama acted on when authorizing the mission to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was likely obtained during enhanced interrogations and/or at the Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) detention facilities.

One such official, Steve Yates, who worked for Vice President Dick Cheney until 2005, said the intelligence had to have come from detainees one way or another. Whether it was obtained at Gitmo or in some other overseas CIA facility where enhanced interrogation techniques were permissible, or some combination of the two, he’s not sure.

Liberals “can’t love the idea of having the ‘liberal-in-chief’ using the CIA to assassinate opponents,” Yates said, adding that it’s the exact opposite of what the “hippies from the flower generation and the anti-war movement generally” expect from a Democrat they helped elect president. “I think, generally, the administration has been mugged by reality when it comes to why these things exist, these programs, capabilities and the fact that evil exists in the world, that evil wasn’t George Bush and it wasn’t conservatives. These things [contentious Bush anti-terror measures] actually had a purpose that they [the Obama administration] didn’t care to discuss until they took the reins of power.”

In a Defense Department background briefing, a senior intelligence official said that, “key information was gleaned from detainees. And that detainee reporting provided insights into the bin Laden courier network. And so it did — it did contribute, you know, to the intelligence case. But it was by no means the only bit of information.”

The senior intelligence official then said, “it was multiple detainees debriefed over a number of years,” who provided the information, “and then it was a composite picture of the courier network and this particular courier that we were interested — that led us to this compound, that came out of that composite picture and then was developed further through other intelligence means.”

Former CIA director Michael Hayden told CNN’s John King that the detainees who provided U.S. officials with intelligence on bin Laden’s couriers, the essential link to the mansion in Pakistan the terrorist leader was found in, were held at CIA black sites, not at Guantanamo Bay. That means those detainees may have been subjected to enhanced interrogation tactics.

Cully Stimson, a former pentagon official during the Bush administration and current Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow, told TheDC that he doesn’t think it’s clear yet how the intelligence was obtained or where the detainees who provided important intelligence for the operation were held, and he isn’t sure if it will ever be clear. “I think the possibilities include the following: one, Guantanamo detainees, two, CIA detainees, but, remember, there were just under 100 of them, we only brought 14 to Guantanamo. It could have resulted from enhanced interrogation techniques. It could have resulted from waterboarding, which only three were waterboarded. It could have resulted from direct questioning by FBI agents early on.”

Stimson also points out the information could have come from detainees in Bagram, an American detention facility in Afghanistan, other detainees in Afghanistan, strategic or tactical interrogations in Iraq, or “any combination thereof.”

“I just don’t think it’s prudent to try to guess which ones, and I think it’s a real leap, though I think people are trying to get out in front of this, to spin the story,” Stimson said. “It’s a leap to say this proves enhanced interrogation techniques worked, like I see some people saying on the blogs, or that it doesn’t work and it didn’t come from that and that’s what I see the other people saying on other blogs.”

The conclusion Stimson thinks can be drawn now from this situation is that victories in the War on Terror are the direct result of having a centralized location for intelligence gathering and interrogations. Throughout the War on Terror, that location has been Gitmo, and Stimson said moving any or all of the interrogation and intelligence-gathering materials anywhere else would cost billions of dollars and may cause legal issues for military personnel.

Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told TheDC that it’s the “height of irony” that Obama’s biggest military victory is a direct result of intelligence obtained through either Gitmo, which Obama campaigned to close during the 2008 election, or enhanced interrogation procedures, something the professional left despises. “There’s a fundamental irony here as this is unequivocally President Obama’s greatest success in the War on Terror, and America’s greatest victory in the War on Terror and that’s true,” Joscelyn said. “But, whether the intelligence came from detainees at Gitmo or it came from detainees in the CIA’s program, it came from a platform that Obama has denounced. It came from a platform that Obama said violated American principles.”

Obama has not closed Gitmo since taking office, but he did end the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program. Yates said the Obama administration has finally started to learn that “the world is rough” and “we need places like Guantanamo Bay.”