Amidst reports that Osama bin Laden was located and killed with the assistance of intelligence gather from detainees at Guantanamo Bay – some of whom were allegedly tortured via waterboarding, among other techniques – a debate is raging over the usefulness of torture.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, denied that any of the information that ultimately led to finding Osama at his luxury compound was in any way gained from torture.
“To the best of our knowledge,” she said at a Tuesday morning press conference, “based on a look, none of it came as a result of harsh interrogation techniques.”
However, some Republicans are claiming that harsh interrogation techniques on prisoners (including torture) is what really led to the capture of Osama, downplaying President Barack Obama’s role in the adventure.
We obtained that information through waterboarding, Republican Congressman Peter King told Fox News.
So for those who say that waterboarding doesn’t work, who say it should be stopped and never used again, we got vital information, which directly led us to Bin Laden.
Similarly, another Republican, Congressman Steve King of Iowa, quipped on Twitter, Wonder what President Obama thinks of water boarding now?
Moreover, such a stance gives greater credibility to former president George W. Bush, under whom the torture of foreign inmates took place.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican, explicitly credited Bush with Osama’s capture and murder. Nearly ten years ago, President Bush stood before the nation after 9/11 and pledged to the American people that we will not tire and we will not falter, and we will not fail in our quest to defeat those who intend to do us harm through acts of terror, he said.
Last night we heard President Obama tell a very changed nation that we did not fail.
Similarly, Sarah Palin, the former Republican Vice Presidential nominee, told a group of college students, We thank President Bush for having made the right calls to set up this victory.
Others are not so sure.
The Associated Press reported that the courier who provided crucial information on Osama’s residence was subject to routine interrogation, not “enhanced” ones (like torture). In addition, Donald Rumsfeld, the Defense Secretary under Bush, insisted that
it was not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding that produced the necessary information on Osama’s lair.
Even some GOP members discount the importance of waterboarding.
This idea we caught Bin Laden because of waterboarding is a misstatement, said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
I do not think this is a time for celebrating waterboarding. The problems at Guantanamo Bay and [Iraqi prison] Abu Ghraib caused us great misery, and it was a recruiting tool.
Overall, officials of The Obama administration are remaining nonpartisan on the controversial topic.
Current White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told Time magazine: “It’s impossible to know whether information obtained by [enhanced interrogation techniques] could have been obtained by other forms of interrogation,” he said. “I think this is a distraction from the broader picture, which is that this achievement was the result of years of painstaking work by our intelligence community that drew from multiple sources.”
Vietor added: Multiple detainees have given us insights into networks of people who might have been close to Bin Laden. And beyond detainee reporting, solid information derived from other sources over many years ultimately helped solve an incredibly complex puzzle. The bottom line is this: If we had some kind of smoking gun intelligence from waterboarding in 2003, we would have taken out Osama bin Laden in 2003. So this argument just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Attorney General Eric Holder blandly said: “There was a mosaic of sources that lead to the identification of the people.”
Amnesty International, the human rights organization, has long criticized the use of waterboarding among prisoners.
Three years ago, Rob Freer, Amnesty’s researcher on USA said “Waterboarding – where detainees are subjected to simulated drowning – is torture. Torture is a crime under international law. Yet, no one has been held accountable for the authorization and use of waterboarding by US personnel.”
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.