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After Osama bin Laden's death, Congress rethinks aid to Pakistan

The killing of Osama bin Laden could have a profound effect on three big issues in American policy: aid to Pakistan, the usefulness of harsh interrogation techniques, and the Afghanistan war.

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“The American people [who] provided billions of dollars of aid to the Pakistani government deserve to know whether elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services or local officials knew of bin Laden’s location over the five years or so he was there – and if they did not know, how that could possibly be the case.”

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Rep. Ted Poe (R) of Texas is proposing legislation that would cut off future aid unless the US State Department certifies that Pakistan was not “providing sanctuary” to bin Laden. The Obama administration is requesting $3 billion in foreign aid to Pakistan in fiscal year 2012, along with $2.3 billion in funding to boost that nation’s counterterrorism capacity.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey called for suspending US aid immediately. “Before we send another dime, we need to know whether Pakistan truly stands with us in the fight against terrorism,” he said in a statement on Monday.

But the Obama administration and many Republicans supporting the war effort in Afghanistan are urging caution. “Cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound in which we was hiding,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a press briefing on Monday. “Going forward, we are absolutely committed to continuing that cooperation."

The top Republican on the Senate panel that funds US foreign assistance also took a cautionary tone. “Pakistan can’t be trusted, nor can it be abandoned,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, in comments to reporters on Tuesday.

Did torture provide the breakthrough?

A second line of inquiry concerns just how US officials gained the critical intelligence needed to locate bin Laden – especially, whether “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which critics say amount to torture and which Mr. Obama has banned, contributed to the outcome. The USA Patriot Act, passed after the 9/11 attacks to authorize new law-enforcement and intelligence powers, is set to expire this month.

In a briefing with reporters, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California, who chairs the Senate intelligence panel, said that she did not believe that torture techniques were a factor in the outcome. “To the best of our knowledge, based on a look, none of it came due to harsh interrogation practices,” she said on Tuesday.

Democrats on the intelligence panel are investigating Bush-era interrogation practices.

On Monday, Rep. Peter King (R) of New York, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News that “we obtained that information through waterboarding.”

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