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Two Cheers for Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

11:37 AM, May 4, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Those who actually know what information was gathered from the use of enhanced interrogation techniques by CIA officers are now feeling vindicated. After years of being widely criticized for the program, information that these CIA interrogators learned from their use of enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorists finally led to the demise of al Qaeda founder and chief Osama bin Laden.

CIA floor seal

“Information provided by KSM and Abu Faraj al Libbi about Bin Laden’s courier was the lead information that eventually led to the location of [bin Laden’s] compound and the operation that led to his death,” Jose Rodriguez, chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center from 2002 to 2005, told Time magazine. As Massimo Calabresi of Time reports, Rodriguez was in his position "when top al-Qaeda leaders Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) and Abu Faraj al-Libbi were taken into custody and subjected to 'enhanced interrogation techniques' at secret black site prisons overseas. KSM was subjected to waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other techniques. Al Libbi was not waterboarded, but other EITs were used on him."

“I realized that bin Laden was not really running his organization. You can’t run an organization and have a courier who makes the rounds every two months,” Rodriguez told Time. “So I became convinced then that this was a person who was just a figurehead and was not calling the shots, the tactical shots, of the organization. So that was significant.”

Former CIA director Michael Hayden, someone who clearly knows what information was learned by the CIA interrogators, talked with North Dakota radio host Scott Hennen about this yesterday:

"[W]e've got a little information on the couriers from some of the people that the CIA had detained and questioned at our so-called 'black sites,'" Hayden told Hennen on the air. "So let's start with that information and begin to build out from there. That started about four years ago, Scott. And, frankly, there is a straight line between the work that began there and the raid that took place Sunday afternoon our time."

Hennen replied by asking: "Does this end once and for all in your view the debate over whether we ought to do enhanced interrogation techniques, whether we ought to have black sites, whether we ought to have Gitmo? Should that debate end here?"

"Well, I have a view, but I also know honest men can differ," Hayden said. "There's one thing that can end: A lot of people claimed you didn't get any valuable intelligence out of these people or through these techniques, that's not true. We did. And this is proof of it. And so if you want to object to this now, the sentence you have to form isn't, 'it didn't work and I don't want you to do it.' The sentence you have to form is, 'although it did work, I don't want you to do it.' That's an honorable position, Scott. But it also requires some courage to say that."

"No question that how we were led to Osama bin Laden was through enhanced interrogation techniques?" Hennen asked, seeking confirmation of what Hayden was suggesting. 

"Well, what I'm at liberty to say is, what we got, the original lead information—and frankly it was incomplete identity information on the couriers—began with information from CIA detainees at the black sites," Hayden said. "And let me just leave it at that." 

I, for one, wouldn't count on President Obama and those of his ideological persuasion to thank CIA interrogators for keeping America safe. But Obama should—they deserve their share of the credit for helping to rid the world of evil. 

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