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Terrorism & Security

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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No matter what Mr. Yoo and friends may claim, the real lesson of the Bin Laden operation is that it demonstrated what can be done with focused intelligence work and persistence.

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Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona said Wednesday as he was leaving an intelligence briefing by CIA Director Leon Panetta that no information he has seen indicated that techniques such as waterboarding were a significant factor in intelligence gathering that led to bin Laden's death. Members of the Obama administration say surveillance and standard interrogations were more critical in leading them to bin Laden's suburban hideout.

In Europe, where torture has less public support, news outlets ran stories and op-eds about the revival of the US debate on torture, but most did not go so far as to say that bin Laden's capture justified the controversial torture techniques. A Guardian columnist argued that even if bin Laden's death could be attributed to torture – which it can't, she says – that success is not enough to justify all the other torture cases.

"… It is still clear that the line peddled by George W Bush apologists (such as this Republican congressman) – that what this episode teaches us is that waterboarding works – is as wrong-headed as it is naive. …

So does the saga of Bin Laden's death help the case of the pro-torturers? Not really. Even accepting their own best-case scenario – that torture gave them the evidence that helped them trace Bin Laden – it also, in different cases, gave them the clear falsehoods that led to a massively costly war in Iraq based on the misguided belief in links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. …

But even if you do decide to take the facile and misleading arguments of certain Bush-era apologists at face value, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed + waterboarding = Bin Laden, maybe spare a thought for the thousands of others put through this ordeal (and worse) at Guantánamo and CIA black sites around the world."

Many have pointed out that bin Laden's killing, however it was achieved, is not the end of the fight against the brand of global terrorism he endorsed. Washington Times columnist Emily Miller says that bin Laden's capture demonstrates why Guantánamo Bay must be kept open, demanding that Obama expunge the order for its closure that he issued early in his presidency.

She endorses legislation introduced by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R) of California as the recipe for America's action against terrorism going forward:

The legislation would do the following: Keep Guantánamo Bay open (disregarding the 2009 executive order); ban any current or future detainees at Guantánamo Bay from being brought to the United States; reaffirm that military law is in effect for al Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist networks; prevent detainees from being released to third countries that do not have adequate security to keep them from returning to the battlefield; and withdraw the new legal rights bestowed on the detainees by the White House.

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