Bin Laden Dead, Torture Debate Lives On
Well, that didn’t take long. It may have taken nearly a decade to find and kill Osama bin Laden, but it took less than twenty-four hours for torture apologists to claim credit for his downfall.
Keep America Safe, an organization run by former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol, released a victory statement today that entirely failed to mention President Obama, but lavishly credited “the men and women of America’s intelligence services who, through their interrogation of high-value detainees, developed the information that apparently led us to bin Laden.”
Funny. You would think that if the C.I.A.’s interrogation of high-value detainees was all it took, the U.S. government would have succeeded in locating bin Laden before 2006, which is when the C.I.A.’s custody of so-called “high-value detainees” ended. Instead, after the Supreme Court ruled that year that prisoners needed to be treated humanely in compliance with the Geneva Conventions, the C.I.A. was forced to turn its special detainees over to the military for detention and interrogation using more lawful tactics in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. It took five more years before all the dots could be adequately connected.
Many key details are still missing. But according to the New York Times, the turning point came when detainees being held in Guantánamo—not in the C.I.A.’s secret black-site prisons—revealed to American interrogators the pseudonym used by a key bin Laden courier, whom they also identified as a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Then, four years ago, American interrogators were able to learn the real name of the courier. It then took two more years, according to the Times, before American officials were able to piece together the geographic region in which he operated. They didn’t succeed in tracking him to the suspicious compound, in which bin Laden resided, until last August.
This timeline doesn’t seem to provide a lot of support for the pro-torture narrative. One would think that if so-called “enhanced interrogations” provided the magic silver bullet, and if the courier was a protégé of K.S.M.’s, then the C.I.A. might have wrapped this up back in 2003, while they were waterboarding the 9/11 mastermind a hundred and eighty-three times. Despite these contradictions and complications, the two sides on the torture debate are already off and running.
Photograph by Virginie Montet/AFP/Getty Images.