Marcy Wheeler, as usual, hits the key points
in the "torture caught bin Laden" trope former Bush administration types, and crazy Rep.P Peter King, continue to push. The argument hinges on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of three detainees waterboarded in a CIA black site. For the story to hold together, he had to have been the key in providing the information. A second detainiee, Abu Faraj al-Libi has also been mentioned as a source. Al-Libi wasn't subject to waterboarding, though he was to other, unspecified "harsh interrogation techniques."
[T]here are two points that seem key in assessing the torture question. First, both KSM and al-Libi had critical intelligence they withheld under torture. KSM knew of Abu Ahmed's trusted role and real name; al-Libi knew Abu Ahmed was OBL’s trusted courier and may have known of what became OBL’s compound.
And neither of them revealed that information to the CIA.
They waterboarded KSM 183 times in a month, and he either never got asked about couriers guarding OBL, or he avoided answering the question honestly. Had KSM revealed that detail, Bush might have gotten OBL 8 years ago.
And just as importantly, the whole time KSM was shielding Abu Ahmed’s true identity while being waterboarded, KSM was also lying to the CIA about where OBL was. When asked what things he lied about under torture at his 2007 CSRT hearing, KSM specifically said he first said he didn’t know of OBL’s whereabouts, and then confirmed false locations for him, in response to the torture.
Scott Shane and Charlie Savage confirm much of this in a NYT article today, pointing another detainee, Hassan Ghul, who provided the key identification.
One detainee who apparently was subjected to some tough treatment provided a crucial description of the courier, according to current and former officials briefed on the interrogations. But two prisoners who underwent some of the harshest treatment—including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times—repeatedly misled their interrogators about the courier’s identity....
Glenn L. Carle, a retired C.I.A. officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002, said in a phone interview Tuesday, that coercive techniques "didn’t provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information." He said that while some of his colleagues defended the measures, “everyone was deeply concerned and most felt it was un-American and did not work."
In 2002 and 2003, interrogators first heard about a Qaeda courier who used the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, but his name was just one tidbit in heaps of uncorroborated claims....
According to an American official familiar with his interrogation, Mr. Mohammed was first asked about Mr. Kuwaiti in the fall of 2003, months after the waterboarding. He acknowledged having known him but said the courier was "retired" and of little significance.
In 2004, however, a Qaeda operative named Hassan Ghul, captured in Iraq, gave a different account of Mr. Kuwaiti, according to the American official. Mr. Ghul told interrogators that Mr. Kuwaiti was a trusted courier who was close to Bin Laden, as well as to Mr. Mohammed and to Abu Faraj al-Libi, who had become the operational chief of Al Qaeda after Mr. Mohammed’s capture.
Mr. Kuwaiti, Mr. Ghul added, had not been seen in some time — which analysts thought was a possible indication that the courier was hiding out with Bin Laden.
The details of Mr. Ghul’s treatment are unclear, though the C.I.A. says he was not waterboarded. The C.I.A. asked the Justice Department to authorize other harsh methods for use on him, but it is unclear which were used. One official recalled that Mr. Ghul was “quite cooperative,” saying that rough treatment, if any, would have been brief....
After Mr. Libi was captured in May 2005 and turned over to the C.I.A., he too was asked. He denied knowing Mr. Kuwaiti and gave a different name for Bin Laden’s courier, whom he called Maulawi Jan. C.I.A. analysts would never find such a person and eventually concluded that the name was Mr. Libi’s invention, the official recalled.
Again, the C.I.A. has said Mr. Libi was not waterboarded, and details of his treatment are not known. But anticipating his interrogation, the agency pressured the Justice Department days after his capture for a new set of legal memorandums justifying the most brutal methods.
The story is now being steered toward the idea Armando joked about yesterday: it was the denials of knowledge of al-Kuwaiti by KSM and al-Libi that led the CIA to believe that he was the key to finding bin Laden. But it didn't happen because KSM was waterboarded.
Now consider this: KSM and al-Libi had that information. What if the Jack Bauer wannabes Bush/Cheney/Yoo and down through many of the CIA ranks hadn't let their testosterone fueled revenge fantasies rule? What if lawful and effective interrogation techniques the FBI and other intelligence services have relied up on for decades had been used on these high value detainees? What if, instead of using torture to gain false intelligence to justify an invasion of Iraq the CIA used valid interrogation techniques on KSM?
Maybe bin Laden would have been neutralized eight years ago.