How Torture Elicited 'Key Denials' That Led To Death of bin Laden 9 Years Later (Sarcasm)

I found this from the NYTimes interesting:

Prisoners in American custody told stories of a trusted courier. When the Americans ran the man’s pseudonym past two top-level detainees — the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed; and Al Qaeda’s operational chief, Abu Faraj al-Libi — the men claimed never to have heard his name. That raised suspicions among interrogators that the two detainees were lying and that the courier probably was an important figure.

You see? The key was the denials extracted from Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and Abu Faraj al-Libi through torture. Or maybe not:

By 2005, many inside the C.I.A. had reached the conclusion that the Bin Laden hunt had grown cold, and the agency’s top clandestine officer ordered an overhaul of the agency’s counterterrorism operations. The result was Operation Cannonball, a bureaucratic reshuffling that placed more C.I.A. case officers on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

With more agents in the field, the C.I.A. finally got the courier’s family name. With that, they turned to one of their greatest investigative tools — the National Security Agency began intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages between the man’s family and anyone inside Pakistan. From there they got his full name.

Last July, Pakistani agents working for the C.I.A. spotted him driving his vehicle near Peshawar. When, after weeks of surveillance, he drove to the sprawling compound in Abbottabad, American intelligence operatives felt they were onto something big, perhaps even Bin Laden himself. It was hardly the spartan cave in the mountains that many had envisioned as his hiding place. Rather, it was a three-story house ringed by 12-foot-high concrete walls, topped with barbed wire and protected by two security fences. He was, said Mr. Brennan, the White House official, “hiding in plain sight.”

But the denials extracted by torture in 2002 were the key. Riiiiiight.

With apologies to Kevin Drum, this operation proved yet again that besides the fact that torture is illegal and immoral, it simply does not work.

This seems a significant point to me.

Speaking for me only

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    Come on. Torture helped (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by observed on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:08:52 AM EST
    bring information about the courier from the "unknown unknowable" status to "unknown unknown".

    I totally stole this quote btw. (none / 0) (#6)
    by Thanin on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:31:32 AM EST
    Correct me if I'm wrong (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by lilburro on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:11:51 AM EST
    but I think this conflicts a bit with the AP's account:

    In a secret CIA prison in Eastern Europe years ago, al-Qaida's No. 3 leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, gave authorities the nicknames of several of bin Laden's couriers, four former U.S. intelligence officials said. Those names were among thousands of leads the CIA was pursuing.

    So KSM eventually says the names, but not while being tortured:

    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.

    I don't know which is accurate, or if they both are.  I find it odd that there are so many former officials, like Rumsfeld, who are acting like they know exactly the courier Obama's operation went after.  "Oh yeah, that guy."  WTF?

    Anyway, I agree that it's worth taking up the "torture does not work" angle here.  The key to the mission appears to have been shifting priorities and strategy.

    Not so odd that Rummy and the like (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by ruffian on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:21:06 AM EST
    act like they know more than they do. It suddenly makes sense why they think torture works - they think everyone is like them - secretly wanting to tell what they know.

    You know what thought really makes me want to dance in the streets? While John McCain was making his 4000th appearance pontificating on Face The Nation, the real power players were in the WH situation room. Delightful!


    lilburro, both may be true (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by MKS on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:08:33 AM EST
    Here is a TPM article explaining that AP gave out more detail explaining and clarifying prior reports--which had been short on detail:

    But then the AP updated the story yet again, adding this crucial detail.

    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

    Unfortunately (none / 0) (#49)
    by cal1942 on Tue May 03, 2011 at 12:54:10 PM EST
    the earlier AP story was published in some newspapers and was also reported this morning on Today.

    My local paper from the AP ...

    Osama bin Laden, the terror mastermind killed by Navy SEALS in an intense firefight, was hunted down based on information first gleaned years ago from detainees at secret CIA prison sites in Eastern Europe, officials disclosed Monday.

    Today even showed animated graphics of waterboarding in their story this morning.

    Personally I have a problem as well with AP's updated account when they include:

    leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic

    Within the story it's settled that the information was not obtained via torture.  So, why in hell does the writer feel it's necessary to go beyond the scope of the story to frame a debate.


    As discussed yesterday (none / 0) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:15:49 AM EST
    the horsesh*t is flying inn all directions.

    I am looking forward to (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by lilburro on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:23:11 AM EST
    a lengthy profile on Panetta's achievements as CIA Director.  Apparently an anti-torture Democrat can do a better job as CIA head than Porter Goss.  Wow.  Who.  Knew.

    Also (none / 0) (#11)
    by lilburro on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:42:22 AM EST
    perhaps this will affect the media's coverage of intelligence issues...and lead them to seek out unnamed sources with more diverse views, instead of just interviewing the same ex-CIA folks over and over who say "you can't change anything!  you can't change anything!" and basically scaremonger incessantly.  To act like those people don't and didn't have a clear political aim, c'mon.  This seems to me all the more important as coverage of the CIA frequently focuses on "morale."  My guess is that successfully carrying out this operation against OBL raised the CIA's morale.

    I think this point is worth raising since pro-torture figures were given pretty free rein to make whatever claims they wanted in the media.  And then they were never asked to put them to the test - by the media, largely, or by a Truth Commission.  

    (more on the media and the CIA here, here, and here).


    Kudos to Panetta? (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:52:07 AM EST
    Give it a few days.

    First the President gets his due, SitRoom et al.

    BTW, I think this has to be done - not just for Obama's political fortunes, byt for Democrats in general.

    Steel and resolve NOW  (or perception of such) with positive political consequences may lead the Obama Team to understand that resolve on DOMESTIC issues will also redound to his political favor and to the favor of the Dem Party.


    I don't mean Panetta (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by lilburro on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:02:07 AM EST
    as though he exists in a vacuum.  I see his selection and apparent ability to carry out tasks assigned by the President as an extension of the President's foreign policy views.  The President's approach worked, and he did it with a group of people that defied expectations (esp. Panetta).  It seems to me the media should examine why this team worked as well as it did on this mission, despite the CW of 2008/9.

    If only...... (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by oldpro on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:04:52 AM EST
    I hope (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:32:31 AM EST
    you are right but I'm thinking that you are probably wrong. Obama's economic team isn't the top flight bunch that he has in Panetta, Hillary et. al. While ultimately Obama takes the credit and the blame on what's going on, he's the one that picked both teams.

    But he doesn't have strong (none / 0) (#20)
    by observed on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:13:21 AM EST
    feelings/ preferences on domestic policy.
    I always thought that Obama showed passion only when discussing foreign policy.
    He has a definite philosophy which he adheres to in foreign policy.
    If he did whatever his "real" instincts are in domestic policy, I honestly have no idea what direction he would go.

    Well, maybe he will (none / 0) (#22)
    by KeysDan on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:23:13 AM EST
    now feel more comfortable with leadership.  Hopefully, it will feel really good. And, maybe, just maybe, facilitation and conflict resolution will give way to decisiveness and confidence.  Moreover, as with the intelligence reorganization being bandied about, he would be well-served to re-staff his domestic policy team.

    I think (none / 0) (#25)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:34:06 AM EST
    your last statement kind of defines the problem. Unless he gets rid of his current economic staff, there's really not going to be anything good done on the economy.

    Or maybe he is leading in the direction (none / 0) (#46)
    by MO Blue on Tue May 03, 2011 at 11:50:28 AM EST
    that he wants domestic policy to go and using PPUS as a smoke screen.

    If there is one thing I would like to see (5.00 / 4) (#7)
    by Anne on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:31:51 AM EST
    come out of this, it is the clear message that, for lack of a better term, "good old-fashioned police work" can and does lead to the successful capture/arrest (although in this case, it was death) of those who have committed or planned terrorist acts.  And that torture does not and should not have to be part of the investigation process.

    If we could leap that hurdle, the next thing I would so like to see is the insistence that it is our federal civilian judicial system that is the appropriate venue for the charging and trial of those arrested for these crimes.

    A turn back to procedures and processes that are fully in accordance with the civilian judicial system and the Constitution would be a much more satisfying result of the bin Laden operation than a resurgence of nationalism and the return of the patriotism police.

    That would be something truly worth celebrating, and a much more fitting tribute to those who lost lives and loved ones that awful day.

    Agreed (none / 0) (#13)
    by smott on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:56:32 AM EST
    ....and don't forget the Geneva Convention....

    Reuters (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by standingup on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:38:39 AM EST
    article on the topic:

    KSM, as he was known to U.S. officials, was subjected to "waterboarding" 183 times, the U.S. government has acknowledged.

    But it was not until later, after waterboarding was suspended because it and other harsh techniques became heatedly debated, that Mohammed told interrogators about the existence of a courier particularly close to bin Laden, a fragmentary tip that touched off a years-long manhunt that ended in bin Laden's death at the hands of U.S. special forces on Sunday.

    And at the time the information surfaced, the CIA had already abandoned some of its most controversial interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, in which water is poured over the face of an interrogation subject to simulate drowning, current and former U.S. officials told Reuters.

    Maybe we should be asking if the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" delayed the capture/killing of Bin Laden.  

    As gyrfalcon points out (none / 0) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:40:14 AM EST
    this story is contradictory to what the NYTimes is reporting.

    They still have not gotten their story straight obviously.


    Excuse me (none / 0) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:40:54 AM EST
    As lilburro points out.

    Yes (none / 0) (#18)
    by standingup on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:08:23 AM EST
    and with so many having conflicting agendas on torture, they may never get their story straight.    

    Holder makes everything clear as mud :-( (none / 0) (#43)
    by MO Blue on Tue May 03, 2011 at 11:43:58 AM EST
    I Don't Know If Enhanced Interrogation Led To Bin Laden

    Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that he didn't know if any information obtained from detainees undergoing enhanced interrogation techniques lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

    "There was a mosaic of sources that lead to the identification of the people" who lead to bin Laden, Holder told members of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Pressed by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) on whether any information used to find bin Laden came out during enhanced interrogation, Holder said he didn't know.

    Evidently they haven't decided what they want the story line to be or don't want the story to clear.


    Haha (none / 0) (#44)
    by lilburro on Tue May 03, 2011 at 11:47:20 AM EST
    now Congress has questions...I dare the GOP to open that door.

    BTD, yes, perhaps Obama will learn (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by MKS on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:15:08 AM EST
    to be more stout in his dealings with the Republicans.  

    But Obama strikes me as very, very bright and that he knows exactly what he is doing.  I think the raid to get bin Laden proves that.

    So, I would try more to focus on the Senate.  The more Senators who stand up like Bernie Sanders, the more liberal Obama will become--that would dovetail with your pols will be pols theory.  

    I'm not sure I see how it relates (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by ruffian on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:40:23 AM EST
    unless you mean this action will get him more political capital. Or a good reason to cut the defense budget.

    There can hardly be a more bipartisan action than getting OBL, and Obama is using it as yet another call for post-partisan unity. I don't see it making him more stout in dealing with Republicans.


    I disagree (none / 0) (#23)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:23:26 AM EST
    Like in 1995, it is up to the President.

    I see your point (none / 0) (#42)
    by MKS on Tue May 03, 2011 at 11:35:30 AM EST
    As to what bloggers can do, I think influencing the President would be great, but....

    You met with Boxer as I recall on Supreme Court picks awhile ago.  So, as a practical matter, you and Jeralyn could actually get the ear of a Senator or two.....

    If you can get Obama's ear, great.....


    I've been saying for a long time now that (none / 0) (#45)
    by Anne on Tue May 03, 2011 at 11:47:59 AM EST
    Dems in Congress (especially the Senate now that they've lost their majority in the House) need to remember that they are members of an independent body and they have the ability and the power - and even the responsibility - to craft the legislation their way, even if it doesn't dovetail with the president's vision.  It then puts the ball in the president's court to either sign or veto.

    In fact, after the election in 2008, I had hoped that the Democratic caucus would be able to move Obama to the left by putting forth the kind of legislation we needed.

    Alas, my hope burned out quickly, as soon as I realized that the Democratic caucus isn't nearly liberal/progressive enough, and the only direction it was going to move things was to the right.  

    Where I think it is doomed to stay for the forseeable future.


    From Reservoir Dogs (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Harry Saxon on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:42:42 AM EST

    Nice Guy Eddie:
    If you f*cking beat this pr*ck long enough, he'll tell you he started the godd*mn Chicago fire, now that don't necessarily make it f*cking so!

    I Want to Puke... (5.00 / 6) (#34)
    by ScottW714 on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:59:10 AM EST
    ... at the number of Bush-leaguers coming out of the woodwork to try and claim credit.  Rice, Rumsfeld and Bush have been in hiding and now they won't get off my TV and the media won't stop enabling their BS.

    How nice of them to all point out how integral they were in getting OBL, and I would like to thank them for not actually getting him in the 7 years they had.  

    Someone might want to point out to these clowns that if torture worked, we would have had the address long ago, when torture was actually being used.  F'en Idiots.

    Yep. Names I have not heard in years (5.00 / 2) (#36)
    by ruffian on Tue May 03, 2011 at 11:04:46 AM EST
    are now being trotted out as experts in capturing the guy they never captured. Really disgusting.

    Heard Andy Card the other night. Andy effing Card. Unbelieveable.


    Yeah, thanks again (5.00 / 2) (#39)
    by brodie on Tue May 03, 2011 at 11:19:47 AM EST
    CNN and Piers Morgan for Card, Rudy and all the other GOPers he trots out -- including Repub Bob Woodward -- to soft-pedal and underplay Obama's achievement.

    And also on CNN they have Bush's former nat'l security assistant (or whatever her title) Fran Townsend noting all the "important work" her former boss supposedly did in "laying the foundation" for OBL's demise.



    For real. (none / 0) (#38)
    by lilburro on Tue May 03, 2011 at 11:13:36 AM EST
    As someone on Wonkette wrote yesterday, "I'm sure our conservative friends are shocked that Bin Laden wasn't killed in Iraq."   Thank you, BushCo, for absolutely NOTHING.

    Iraq (none / 0) (#47)
    by ScottW714 on Tue May 03, 2011 at 11:52:38 AM EST
    That's gold, solid gold.

    At first, I thought it was my (none / 0) (#15)
    by KeysDan on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:04:51 AM EST
    reading comprehension.  Kept  going back and re-reading the various accounts from those attributed to Brennan to those anonymous officials--too perplexing, too contradictory.  Guess I will wait for the book and movie.

    I had the same thought... (none / 0) (#17)
    by oldpro on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:08:16 AM EST
    ...guess I'll wait for the movie(s).

    This (none / 0) (#26)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:35:26 AM EST
    would make a great movie wouldn't it?

    Hell yeah (none / 0) (#30)
    by Slado on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:44:55 AM EST
    As my episode of Brothers and Sisters was interrupted to bring me this great news all I could think about was how cool a movie this whole operation would be.

    The movie it reminded me of was Clear & Present danger when Harrison Ford went into the CIA headquarters with James Earl Jones and watched special ops take out a compound via satellite.

    That is literally what happened for president Obama.  The coolest part would be how we really gathered the info, tracked the courier and then the finale is the assassination.


    Paging (none / 0) (#40)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue May 03, 2011 at 11:28:30 AM EST
    Jerry Bruckner.

    LOL (none / 0) (#57)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue May 03, 2011 at 07:28:00 PM EST
    Yes, that is who I meant and I posted it wrong again in another thread. Thanks for the heads up!

    Emptywheel is one of the best out there (none / 0) (#37)
    by ruffian on Tue May 03, 2011 at 11:08:31 AM EST
    at piecing this kind of thing together. It is even more interesting than I thought.

    Leon Panetta's already on it... (none / 0) (#41)
    by Anne on Tue May 03, 2011 at 11:32:05 AM EST
    From Glenn:

    Speaking of "frat boy reactions," Leon Panetta is excitingly speculating about which actors should portray him in the movie about the Hunt for bin Laden, helpfully suggesting Al Pacino. It's been a long time since Americans felt this good and strong about themselves -- nothing like putting bullets in someone's skull and dumping their corpse into an ocean to rejuvenate that can-do American sense of optimism.



    That's a little surprising (none / 0) (#48)
    by brodie on Tue May 03, 2011 at 12:07:17 PM EST
    about Panella, who's been around forever (since Nixon) and is usually so good at keeping his head down and out of the news for the wrong reasons.

    Maybe Obama failed to think of issuing the needed No Gloating order, as JFK did following the Missile Crisis.  If so, please consider doing so now Monsieur Président.


    I don't exactly understand the arguement here (none / 0) (#28)
    by Slado on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:41:55 AM EST
    Are we saying that we did not "torture" detainees in order to gather the information necessary to carry out an assassination of a person of interest in another country?

    Just want to make sure I have my facts straight.

    Why is the left so obsessed with the "torture" debate when our country routinely carries out assassinations in our name with no trial or jury.

    Just wondering.

    This whole argument on both sides is a waste of time.

    I don't understand your confusion (5.00 / 4) (#31)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:46:16 AM EST
    We PROUDLY tortured DENIALS out of KSM and al LIbi and 9 years later, Voila, OBL is dead.

    What part are you not understanding? MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!


    Osama knew his days were numbered (none / 0) (#32)
    by observed on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:47:30 AM EST
    from the day he saw Bush in the codpiece.
    That kind of masculinity would scare Genghis Khan!

    LOL (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by ruffian on Tue May 03, 2011 at 11:03:14 AM EST
    I know it scared me

    I'm just saying the whole (none / 0) (#55)
    by Slado on Tue May 03, 2011 at 03:02:37 PM EST
    debate about if the original intelligence was obtained because of or not because of torture is a waste of time just like the whole torture debate was a huge waste of time to begin with.

    For both sides.

    We are executing terrorists routinely without a trial and on weak evidence but both sides don't seem to have a problem with this.

    No we get all worked in a lather that for a few years right after 9/11 we "tortured" terrorists while in custody.

    We kill people every day because we want to but we're distracted by this torture debate that is already over.

    Wast of time.


    Ah (none / 0) (#56)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 03, 2011 at 03:03:57 PM EST
    Well if you are indifferent to torture and the whole war crime thing, yeah I could see how you could see it as a waste of time.

    My view is different than yours on that point.


    Shorter Slado (none / 0) (#33)
    by lilburro on Tue May 03, 2011 at 10:48:33 AM EST
    "Look over there!"