It was a dispute that should have been settled once and for all. But the finding and killing of Osama bin Laden has reinvigorated the advocates of torture as a legitimate and effective investigative tool. They insist that waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” led to tracking him down.
Dick Cheney, the former vice president under President George W. Bush, denies that waterboarding is torture and wants it reinstated. John Yoo, whose secret 2003 memo officially authorized brutal interrogation of terrorist suspects, wrote in the current National Review: “President Obama can take credit, rightfully, for the success today, but he owes it to the tough decisions taken by the Bush administration.” Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey have joined the chorus.
Mr. Mukasey wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Consider how the intelligence that led to bin Laden came to hand. It began with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) [chief planner of the 9/11 attacks], who broke like a dam under the pressure of harsh interrogation techniques that included waterboarding. He loosed a torrent of information — including eventually the nickname of a trusted courier of bin Laden.”
All of that is false, wrote Republican Sen. John McCain in a column printed in the May 13 Bangor Daily News. Quoting CIA Director Leon Panetta, he wrote that the trail started long before they started waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The first mention of the al-Qaida courier who eventually led U.S. agents to bin Laden and description of his role came from “a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured.” None of the three detainees who were waterboarded gave the courier’s real name, whereabouts or role. In fact, the sheik gave misleading information, Sen. McCain wrote.
The bottom line is that, if torture had worked for the Bush administration and pointed to bin Laden’s hideaway, the Bush agents would have caught him then. It took long, painstaking intelligence work by the Obama administration to catch the terrorist leader. The Washington Post quoted Glenn L. Carle, a retired CIA officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002 as saying that coercive techniques “didn’t provide useful meaningful, trustworthy information.”
What is certain is that American use of torture stained this country’s reputation abroad and at home.
As Sen. McCain wrote: “Mistreatment of enemy prisoners endangers our own troops, who might someday be held captive. While some enemies, and al-Qaida surely, will never be bound by the principle of reciprocity, we should have concern for those Americans captured by more conventional enemies, if not in this war then in the next. … It is about who we are.”
The case on torture should be closed.