Did harsh interrogation tactics help US find Osama bin Laden?
Many Bush administration officials say yes. Obama officials say there was a 'mosaic of sources' that led to Osama bin Laden – no single confession. Documents offer some insight into who said what – and how they were treated.
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Claiming vindication, former Bush officials say the information gleaned years ago from the harsh techniques bore fruit. But members of the Obama administration are downplaying its importance, pointing instead to patient analysis.
“There is no single piece of information, beyond the location of the compound where Osama Bin Laden was hiding out, that was incontrovertibly critical to the success of this operation,” White House Spokesman Jay Carney said on Wednesday.
Given the murky and subjective nature of intelligence gathering and analysis, however, it is a debate that is unlikely to end with a definitive resolution.
Mr. Kuwaiti’s real name is Sheikh Abu Ahmed. He died Sunday trying to protect bin Laden during the commando raid.
Officials say it took years after the initial mention of Kuwaiti during a detainee interrogation for US intelligence officers to identify him, locate him, track his communications, and then follow him to the unusually large and well fortified compound in Abbottabad.
The key question in the debate is whether the use of harsh interrogation techniques – including waterboarding – helped hasten the identification of Kuwaiti, and eventually the operation against bin Laden.
Obama administration officials say it was patient and detailed intelligence analysis, not statements blurted out during waterboarding, that led to the successful raid.
“We have multiple ways of gathering information, from detainees, from different methods,” Mr. Carney said. “The work that was done that put the case together was done primarily by analysts gathering tiny bits of information and putting it together and creating a body of work that led to [bin Laden],” he said.
John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security, has said information obtained through waterboarding did not, to his knowledge, play a role in the operation.
On Tuesday Brennan told reporters “counterterrorism work … is exceptionally tedious and painstaking as far as taking a little bit of data and piecing it together and trying to correlate it with something else.”