2011/05/06

Returning to the torture debate


American intelligence operations located Osama by following his trusted couriers, whose names were given up by al-Qaida members during harsh interrogations at CIA black sites under President Bush.
Yes, the same interrogations endlessly denounced by the entire Democratic Party (save Joe Lieberman), the mainstream media, and an especially indignant Jane Mayer in The New Yorker.
Ann Coulter 5May2011

According to “Matthew Alexander, a former senior military interrogator who conducted or supervised over 1,300 interrogations in Iraq, leading to the capture of numerous al-Qaeda leaders”:

One of the things that people aren’t talking about is the fact that one of the people that was confronted with this information that bin Laden had a courier is Sheikh al-Libi, who was held in a CIA secret prison and was tortured and who gave his CIA interrogators the name of the courier as being Maulawi Jan. And the CIA chased down that information and found out that person didn’t exist, that al-Libi had lied. And nobody is talking about the fact that al-Libi caused us to waste resources and time by chasing a false lead because he was tortured.
The other thing that’s being left out of this conversation is the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed certainly knew the real name of the courier, whose nom de guerre or nickname was Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. But Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had to have known his real name or at least how to find him, a location that we might look, but he never gave up that information. And so, what we’re seeing is that waterboarding and enhanced interrogation techniques, just like professional interrogators have been saying for years, always result in either limited information, false information or no information.

In other words, as the Roman jurist Ulpian (1,800 years ago) noted, when tortured, the strong will resist and the weak will say anything to end the pain. We can see both resistance methods being used in the example above. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed simply refused to say anything that would have assisted American interrogators and Sheikh al-Libi lied, telling his interrogators what the obviously wanted to hear, and thereby causing them to waste resources searching for people who didn't exist. No, Ann Coulter is wrong. The name of the courier was indeed critical to finding bin Laden, but that name was not discovered via torture, i.e., through “harsh interrogation methods.”

All of which suggests that that great piece of intelligence al-Libi gave us–that OBL’s couriers would only check in every two months which meant he was just a figurehead–led directly to the CIA’s decision to stop focusing on bin Laden.
And if that’s the case, then al-Libi’s torture didn’t lead us to OBL; rather, it led us to stop searching in concerted manner for OBL.


Marcy “Emptywheel” Wheeler 4May2011

The CIA closed down its' bin Laden unit in 2005, meaning the US Government was not searching for bin Laden in any coordinated or concerted fashion for at least three years, until President Obama got the search for bin Laden up and running again.

Sorry Ms. Coulter, but Jane Mayer was absolutely, 100% correct. Torture did nothing to help locate bin Laden.

No comments: