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Torture: Did it lead to bin Laden?

A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee says the Bush-Cheney administration’s post-9/11 “embrace of torture” did not yield any critical intelligence.

Did torture lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden? asked Massimo Calabresi in Time.com. The answer is now officially no. After a three-year investigation, the Senate Intelligence Committee last week approved a 6,000-page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program that confirms that the Bush-Cheney administration’s post-9/11 “embrace of torture” did not yield any critical intelligence. The classified report has not been made public, but committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said it concluded that the breakthrough in the hunt for the al Qaida leader—learning the name of his personal courier—was achieved through conventional interrogation and painstaking intelligence, not by the use of waterboarding and other torture methods. Shamefully, said Glenn Greenwald in Guardian.co.uk, the report is going to get vastly less attention than Zero Dark Thirty, director Kathryn Bigelow’s dramatized version of the Abbottabad raid, which “falsely depicts torture as leading to bin Laden.”

Actually, Bigelow has it right, said Kyle Smith in the New York Post. The film accurately depicts how a captured al Qaida terrorist gives up the pseudonym of bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, after being sexually humiliated, kept awake for days, and stuffed in a coffin-sized box. It also shows how the CIA confirmed the courier’s critical importance when another detainee desperately insists—even while being waterboarded—that al-Kuwaiti is of no importance. Liberals are condemning Bigelow as a torture apologist, but this is “because they live in a fairy tale of their own creation in which there is always a good, just, and fair way to solve problems.” In the real world, we are often forced to choose between “bad choices and worse choices.”

The claim that torture played a key role in finding bin Laden “has been debunked, repeatedly, by reliable sources with access to the facts,” said Jane Mayer in NewYorker.com.The CIA had already learned of the existence of the courier before it began torturing detainees. More importantly, the world’s civilized nations didn’t ban torture because it’s ineffective; they banned it because it’s morally repugnant. “We’ll never know” if we could have found bin Laden without resorting to torture, said David Ignatius in The Washington Post, but we do know that until 9/11 warped our perspective, America didn’t use these practices. “We should oppose torture because it’s wrong, not because it doesn’t work.”

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