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Carney Suggests Interrogations Could Have Led to Bin Laden

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today did not rule out that “enhanced interrogation” techniques conducted on terrorist suspects during the Bush administration provided the key that led to Osama Bin Laden.

“I can’t categorically rule out that one piece of information — because we don’t know,” Carney during in an exchange with me today in the White House briefing.

But Carney was careful to emphasize that any information gleaned by the interrogations was just a piece of a much broader “body of work” that enabled U.S. officials to discover Bin Laden’s hiding place.

A growing catalog of evidence, including statements by CIA Director Leon Panetta and reports in Time and by NBC’s Michael Isikoff, point to a potentially significant role for the interrogations in uncovering the early intel that led to Bin Laden.

Here’s the transcript of my exchange with Jay. I give him credit for answering the questions fairly directly, at least as press secretaries I’ve dealt with go.

KOFFLER: Can you say with certainty that bin Laden’s hideout would have been found without the enhanced interrogation techniques that were done under the Bush administration?

CARNEY: I can say with certainty that no single piece of information, with the exception of the address of the compound, was vital to this, was singularly vital to this, because we’re talking about tiny bits of information that were compiled by unbelievably competent professionals over nine and a half years.

And it’s impossible to know if one piece of information came from one source and was corroborated in another way, if, you know — which — which thread held the cloth together, with the exception of the location of the compound. And I would simply note that that has not been — only been in existence for five or six years.

So may…


CARNEY: Can I finish just answering his question? That’d be great.

The fact is, is that information was gathered from detainees. We have multiple ways of gathering information: from detainees, from different methods that we have of getting information.

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, if you will, that led to the finding of the location where Osama bin Laden was hiding.

KOFFLER: To follow up. It sounds to me at the very least like what you’re saying is that the interrogation techniques cannot be ruled out as a critical and necessary piece to have found bin Laden. Is that correct? It’s possible that that’s true.

CARNEY: I’m saying that there was 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 on Sunday.

Now, I can’t categorically rule out that one piece of information — because we don’t know. We’re missing the sort of bigger picture here, which is that the incredibly hard and focused work of our intelligence community, intelligence professionals who don’t get credit because they’re so often, you know, we can’t name them and identify them and stand them up and celebrate them, led to this success.

Thank You, Torturers

Is anyone willing to recognize the elephant in the room, the monkey on our back, or the skunk at the party?

Is anyone willing to acknowledge and, indeed, applaud The Torturers?

It seems very likely that likely that the vilified interrogations of the Bush years played a critical role in developing the intelligence that led to the end of Osama Bin Laden.

And please, let’s dispense with the euphemisms peddled by the Bushies. This was not “enhanced interrogation techniques.” This was torture. Not the most extreme form of it, but torture.

Journalist Christopher Hitchens wasn’t sure about water boarding, and so he had it done on himself. Afterward, he wrote, “Believe me, it’s torture.”

And he knew he wasn’t going to die.

Let’s review how the Osama Bin Laden hit was set in motion. Here’s what White House Counterterrorism Chief John Brennan said yesterday.

Detainees in the post-9/11 period flagged for us individuals who may have been providing direct support to bin Laden and his deputy, Zawahiri, after their escape from Afghanistan.

One courier in particular had our constant attention.  Detainees gave us his nom de guerre or his nickname and identified him as both a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of September 11th, and a trusted assistant of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the former number three of al Qaeda who was captured in 2005.

Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden.  They indicated he might be living with and protecting bin Laden.

Here’s what ace investigative reporter Michael Isikoff wrote.

The identity of at least one of the detainees who provided early information about the courier who led to bin Laden could be politically explosive. According to a U.S. official, that detainee  was notorious Saudi al-Qaida operative and accused 9/11 conspirator Mohammed al-Qahtani, who was subjected to some of the most humiliating interrogations at Guantanamo. Among the enhanced interrogation techniques used on him were  being forced to wear a woman’s bra, being led around on a leash and forced to perform dog tricks and being subjected to cold temperatures that twice required his hospitalization, according to a later U.S. military report.

Gosh, hospitalization. Sounds like an enhanced torture technique.

And Dick Cheney, Monday on Fox:

I would assume that the enhanced interrogation program that we put in place produced some of the results that led to bin Laden’s ultimate capture . . .  We need to keep in place those policies that made it possible for us to succeed in this case.

Perhaps President Obama, who has eliminated the type of dyspeptic questioning strategies – how’s that for a new euphemism? – that brought him Bin Laden’s scalp should have begged off on the raid on the grounds that the intelligence was obtained via illicit practices.

And where’s the credit from Obama to Bush? If not credit for Bush’s skillful interrogators, than for the razor sharp military he bequeathed him. As one of our readers – Star, who blogs at Do the Hopey Copey –  pointed out to me, Obama has attributed to Bush so very many things, all of which suck. How about this?

Are you, dear reader, really, in your heart, uncomfortable that the CIA tortured a few high value al Qaeda operatives in order to get information that could save the country? I’m not.

Sure, we can’t make this a regular practice. But the country’s moral backbone, built strong over four centuries, is hardly in danger of breaking because we roughed up a few bad guys.

So let me be the first to say it: Thank you, torturers.