Republicans note harsh interrogation helped bin Laden operation

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The debate over the use of harsh interrogation techniques during the Bush administration is being rekindled by the successful operation against Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, which was based on information about the courier extracted from detained terror suspects.

Rep. Peter T. King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said initial clues to bin Laden’s location can be traced to the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the interrogations of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the former No. 3 al Qaeda leader captured in 2005.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed basically gave up nothing until after he had been waterboarded,” Mr. King, New York Republican, said in an interview Tuesday. “It was after that that he first mentioned the courier, he identified him by his nom de guerre, and after that … al Libbi also gave us additional information on the courier.”

White House counterterrorism coordinator John Brennan said Tuesday that he is not aware that waterboarding produced intelligence that led to the identity of bin Laden’s compound.

“Not to my knowledge. The information that was acquired over the course of nine years or so came from many different sources — human sources, technical sources, as well as information that detainees provided,” Mr. Brennan said on MSNBC.

Mr. King said the Bush administration’s overall handling of terrorist detainees was vindicated by Sunday’s successful raid.

“Absolutely. This is a vindication,” he said. “Without that, we may not have gotten bin Laden.”

Administration officials said tracking one particular bin Laden courier ultimately produced key intelligence that ended the worldwide manhunt with Sunday’s commando raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that left the al Qaeda leader dead.

Work by analysts who “pieced it all together” led to the Abbottabad compound last year and the Sunday raid, Mr. Brennan said, noting that no single piece of information resulted in finding the compound and that data from detained terrorists were mixed.

“Sometimes they gave up information willingly as far as offering some details; some of it was disinformation,” he said. “Sometimes they provided information that they didn’t realize had embedded clues in it that we were able to exploit.”

A senior Obama administration official who briefed reporters Sunday night said intelligence agencies had focused on finding couriers for bin Laden since 2001, with one trusted messenger having “our constant attention.”

Interrogated detainees provided the courier’s nom de guerre, identified him as a protege of Mohammed and al-Libbi, and revealed he was “one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden,” the official said.

The courier also was living with and protecting bin Laden, but intelligence agencies were unable for years to learn his name or location.

Then, four years ago, the courier was identified by name, and then two years later he and his brother were spotted as operating in a specific area of Pakistan, the official said.

“Still, we were unable to pinpoint exactly where they lived due to extensive operational security on their part,” the official said.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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