Report says torture useless in hunt for bin Ladin

The CIA still disputes that conclusion

Torture by the CIA in hunt for bin Laden.

Torture by the CIA in hunt for bin Laden.

A hotly disputed Senate torture report concludes that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods provided no key evidence in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to congressional aides and outside experts familiar with the investigation.

The CIA still disputes that conclusion.

From the moment of bin Laden’s death almost three years ago in what was America’s biggest counterterrorism success, former Bush administration and some senior CIA officials have cited the evidence trail leading to the al-Qaida mastermind’s compound in Pakistan as vindicating the “enhanced interrogation techniques” they authorized after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But Democratic and some Republican senators have disputed that account. They described simulated drownings, sleep deprivation and other such practices as cruel and ineffective. With the release edging closer for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on interrogations, renditions and detentions, they hope to make a persuasive case.

The report, congressional aides and outside experts said, examines the treatment of several high-level terror detainees and the information they provided on bin Laden. The aides and people briefed on the report spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the confidential document.

The most high-profile detainee linked to the bin Laden investigation was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, whom the CIA waterboarded 183 times. Mohammed, intelligence officials have noted, confirmed after his 2003 capture that he knew an important al-Qaida courier with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.

But the report concludes that such information wasn’t critical, according to the aides. Mohammed only discussed al-Kuwaiti months after being waterboarded, while he was under standard interrogation, they said. And Mohammed neither acknowledged al-Kuwaiti’s significance nor provided interrogators with the courier’s real name.

The debate over how investigators put the pieces together is significant because years later, the courier led U.S. intelligence to the sleepy Pakistani military town of Abbottabad. There, Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in a secret mission.

The CIA also has pointed to the value of information provided by senior al-Qaida operative Abu Faraj al-Libi, who was captured in 2005 and held at a secret prison.

U.S. officials have described how al-Libi made up a name for a trusted courier and denied knowing al-Kuwaiti. Al-Libi, they said, was so adamant and unbelievable in his denial that the CIA took it as confirmation he and Mohammed were protecting the courier.

But the report concludes evidence gathered from al-Libi wasn’t significant either, the aides said.

Essentially, they argued, Mohammed, al-Libi and others subjected to harsh treatment confirmed only what investigators already knew about the courier. And when they denied the courier’s significance or provided misleading information, investigators would only have considered that significant if they already presumed the courier’s importance.

The aides did not address information provided by yet another al-Qaida operative: Hassan Ghul, captured in Iraq in 2004. Intelligence officials have described Ghul as the true linchpin of the bin Laden investigation after he identified al-Kuwaiti as a critical courier.

In a 2012 news release, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., acknowledged an unidentified “third detainee” had provided relevant information on the courier. But they said he did so the day before he was subjected to harsh CIA interrogation. “This information will be detailed in the Intelligence committee’s report,” the senators said at the time.

In any case, it still took the CIA years to learn al-Kuwaiti’s real identity: Sheikh Abu Ahmed, a Pakistani man born in Kuwait. How the U.S. learned of Ahmed’s name is still unclear.

Without providing full details, aides said the Senate report illustrates the importance of the National Security Agency’s efforts overseas.

Intelligence officials have previously described how in the years when the CIA couldn’t find where bin Laden’s courier was, NSA eavesdroppers came up with nothing until 2010 — when Ahmed had a telephone conversation with someone monitored by U.S. intelligence.

At that point, U.S. intelligence was able to follow Ahmed to bin Laden’s hideout.

Feinstein and other senators have spoken only vaguely of the contents of the classified review.

But they have made references to the divergence between their understanding of how the bin Laden operation came together and assertions of former CIA and Bush administration officials who have defended harsh interrogations.

Responding to former CIA deputy director Jose Rodriguez’s argument that Mohammed and al-Libi provided the “lead information” on the bin Laden operation, Feinstein and Levin said, “The original lead information had no connection to CIA detainees.”

They rejected former CIA Director Michael Hayden’s claim that evidence on the couriers began with interrogations at black sites and Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s declaration that intelligence leading to bin Laden began with Mohammed.

The facts, they said, show that the CIA learned of the courier, his true name and location “through means unrelated to the CIA detention and interrogation program.” They have cited a “wide variety of intelligence sources and methods.”

Terror suspects who were waterboarded “provided no new information about the courier” and offered no indication of where bin Laden was hiding, the senators said.

Feinstein will push to release a summary of the intelligence committee’s review later this week, starting a declassification process that could take several months before any documents are made public.

Senate investigators and CIA officials already are locked in a simmering dispute over competing claims of wrongdoing in the congressional investigation. Feinstein accuses the agency of improperly monitoring the computer use of Senate staffers and deleting files, undermining the Constitution’s separation of powers. The CIA says the intelligence panel illegally accessed certain documents. The Justice Department is reviewing criminal complaints against both sides.

Aides said Levin and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who himself was tortured as a prisoner war in Vietnam more than four decades ago, are among those pushing hard to ensure the investigation’s findings related to the bin Laden pursuit and CIA interrogations are made public.

They and Feinstein were among Congress’ critics of how the hunt was portrayed in the film “Zero Dark Thirty,” which they said was fictional.
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Copyright  © 2014 The Associated Press  All Rights Reserved

4 Responses to "Report says torture useless in hunt for bin Ladin"

  1. woody188  March 31, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Some fun facts:

    Torture is still illegal in the United States and the international community making Junior Bush, Obama, and Senate Intelligence Committee members war criminals by definition and morally bankrupt as leaders. Doing nothing is an endorsement.

    Osama bin Ladin was unarmed when he was assassinated.

    The CIA destroyed their torture tapes, the very evidence that may have exonerated them. Is that something innocent people do?

    The CIA and other US government agencies continue the practice of “extraordinary rendition” and operate themselves or utilize facilities operated by allies at an estimated 60+ torture prisons across the globe. At least 200 people have died, with at least 12 dying during or shortly after interrogations.

    The “Five Eyes” governments spy on all your communication and use this information to prosecute you for even minor crimes. They train their agents like the FBI to lie about the information source in court.

    The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 gives the Unitary Executive the power to detain US citizens indefinitely without redress. The Unitary Executive claims he has the power to assassinate any one in any place across the globe.

    Some 90% of those accused of terrorism, held and tortured in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba were later discovered to be innocent and released. The United States spends $69 million a year to keep the 86 men cleared for transfer, deemed no threat to U.S. national security, imprisoned at Guantanamo. Meanwhile, US veterans and children go homeless and malnourished.

    On average, drone assassinations kill 50 innocent people for every one terrorist they kill. The drone assassination program utilizes data provided by the NSA. The Unitary Executive reserves for himself final confirmation on an assassination. They claim the evidence against the targets is irrefutable. If it is as accurate as their Guantanamo claims, they are wrong 90% of the time or more.

    • woody188  March 31, 2014 at 8:47 am

      A few more:

      In the last 5 years, you were 4 times more likely to die by lightning strike than terrorism.

      Your children are more likely to die in playground accidents than by terrorism. You are more likely to die in a car accident, your bathtub, or in a building fire, than by terrorism.

      Shelter in place is newspeak for martial law. As was demonstrated in Boston, shelter in place means the government will come door to door and search your premises without warrant or hot pursuit. Failure to comply will result in either your death or your own incarceration.

  2. Jon  April 2, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    Their greatest success was state-sponsored murder? Who’s the terrorist here?

    With you on this one, Woody188

    Jon

    • woody188  April 3, 2014 at 12:14 pm

      Yeah, bin Ladin’s death was their “biggest counterterrorism success” but a lot of us question that event as well since no evidence has ever been provided. Now they claim they destroyed the pictures they took. I submit that the pictures never existed in the first place.

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