Expect lots of chest-thumping at the Democratic Convention about the death of Bin Laden. And Obama does deserve some credit for giving the order. But the bigger picture is that Obama never would have been able to do so if he had had his way about interrogations. Anyone who has not read the following interview with former Attorney General Mukasey needs to do so (hat tip: Powerline):
GIGOT: OK. Let me talk to you about another issue. There was — that has come up in the news this week, which is the — what happened with the intelligence leading to the bin Laden capture. There’s a suggestion by two Democratic Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, that enhanced interrogation techniques, waterboarding and such, did not lead to — did not produce evidence that led to the bin Laden capture. They put it this way, “The CIA learned of the existence of the courier, his true name and location, through means unrelated to the CIA detention and interrogation program.” Based on what you knew — learned when you were attorney general, is this correct?
MUKASEY: That is a half tru[th] designed to irritate anyone who knows the other half....
Yes, the CIA knew about the name before it was disclosed by Sheikh Mohammed. However, that information lay unexploited because it came from an insignificant course. When it came from Sheikh Mohammed after he was subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, they followed it up and found this guy was still active. They went back to Sheikh Mohammed, who by then had his wits about him, and asked him again about this guy and he said, oh, he has been out of it for some time. That was a lie. They knew it was a lie. And because he had lied about it, that enhanced even more the significance of the information. So the information did not become significant until they learned about it from him and its significance was increased by the fact that he lied about it. They learned about it after enhanced interrogation techniques....
GIGOT: So based on your experience, you think the enhanced interrogation techniques have absolutely been critical to the progress we have made against Al Qaeda?
MUKASEY: There were three people subjected to all — all the fuss is about three people subjected to the most extreme form of interrogation.
GIGOT: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
GIGOT: Abu Zubaydah.
MUKASEY: Abu Zubaydah and Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, the architect of the Cole attempt.
MUKASEY: We got troves of information from all three. We arrested Hambali, Ramzi bin Al Shibh, a whole array, a whole rogues gallery of terrorists who were prepared to carry off attacks. Mike McConnell, the director of –
GIGOT: Former national director of intelligence.
MUKASEY: Correct. Said that there are people walking around today who would not be walking around today if those techniques had not been used.
Even current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has no idea if Bin Laden would have ever been caught without the enhanced interrogation techniques:
Williams: Turned around the other way, are you denying that waterboarding was in part among the tactics used to extract the intelligence that led to this successful mission?
Panetta: No, I think some of the detainees clearly were — you know, they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. But I’m also saying that the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always going to be an open question.