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One of three al Qaeda captives waterboarded, Nashiri provided the names of a number of operatives still in the field.

Broad consensus

It is not just Bush administration supporters who say interrogations of terrorist suspects at Gitmo and other venues worked.

Asked on NBC News whether enhanced interrogations, including waterboarding, produced information that helped find bin Laden, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta said: “In the intelligence business, you work from a lot of sources of information, and that was true here.”

Mr. Panetta said: “We had a multiple series of sources that provided information with regards to the situation. Clearly, some of it came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees, but we also had information from other sources as well.”

Asked whether he would deny that waterboarding produced critical information on bin Laden, Mr. Panetta answered said he would not.

“No, I think some of the detainees clearly were, you know, they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees,” he said.

“But I’m also saying that, you know, the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always going be an open question.”

Mr. Panetta opposed Mr. Holder’s decision to open a criminal investigation into the CIA interrogators.

The debate over the use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques has raged on Capitol Hill since Mr. Bush initiated the tactics, the most famous of which was waterboarding, and said Geneva Convention rules apply only to signing parties and thus not to stateless terrorists in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Even though leaders from both parties were briefed on the practices as early as 2002, leading Democrats derided their use as reports of secret prisons emerged around 2006.

In 2007, Mr. Bush signed an executive order prohibiting cruel and inhumane treatment, humiliation or denigration of prisoners’ religious beliefs. After taking office in 2009, Mr. Obama dubbed some of the techniques torture, closed the secret prison system and said the administration would abide by the Geneva Conventions.