Torture debate overshadows US unity after bin Laden's killing
Half of Americans credit Bush for Osama bin Laden's killing, reigniting a debate over tactics including secret prisons and 'enhanced interrogation' techniques.
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President Obama is enjoying a significant boost in his approval rating in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, but half of Americans credit the Bush administration for making his capture possible. The debate gets to the heart of how a democratic nation should fight an amorphous enemy that doesn't abide by the traditional rules of war.
A Pew Research Center poll conducted May 2 shows Obama's approval rating jumping to 56 percent Monday from 47 percent last month – similar to the boost former President George W. Bush received after the capture of Saddam Hussein. Seventy-six percent of respondents said Obama was responsible for a "great deal" or "some" credit for killing Mr. bin Laden.
But while there is widespread acknowledgment that the Obama administration executed the raid on bin Laden's compound admirably, some 51 percent of Americans surveyed by Pew said the Bush administration was responsible for bin Laden's elimination – even if it took 10 years after 9/11.
IN PICTURES: Bin Laden's terror legacy
Conservative politicians and pundits say the capture wouldn't have happened without tactics authorized by Bush and often criticized by liberal politicians – specifically controversial secret prisons overseas and "enhanced interrogation" techniques, such as waterboarding, which many consider to be torture.
"The liberals, and specifically Barack Obama, have been dead wrong about how to fight this war. Obama is to be congratulated for making the right decision when the time came. But the intelligence gathering that led to his decision took us down paths that he never would have approved," wrote Jim Davis, a columnist for conservative news organization The Daily Caller.
The name of bin Laden's courier, who made a satellite phone call last summer that enabled the CIA to locate his boss's hideout in Abbottabad, was given by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a CIA secret prison in Eastern Europe, according to the Associated Press. Mr. Mohammed did not give the name while being subjected to waterboarding, however, and it took years of intelligence work to locate the courier.
The New York Times editorial board criticized former members of the Bush administration for saying that bin Laden's capture vindicated their controversial tactics. Rather, it was good intelligence that carried the day, the board maintained.
John Yoo, the former Bush Justice Department lawyer who twisted the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions into an unrecognizable mess to excuse torture, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the killing of Bin Laden proved that waterboarding and other abuses were proper. Donald Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, said at first that no coerced evidence played a role in tracking down Bin Laden, but by Tuesday he was reciting the talking points about the virtues of prisoner abuse. …