The Obama administration got Osama bin Laden through a combination of persistent intelligence gathering, extensive surveillance, and well-coordinated military action (for an excellent summary of these efforts see the National Security Network's account, here). But now a rogue's gallery of right-wing ideologues and Bush administration operatives are trying to argue that the key to the success in finding Bin Laden was torture (or "enhanced interrogation," to put it more gently and less accurately).
One of the first responses to these absurd claims came from Brian Beutler, whose piece, "GOP's Tortured Logic: How We Got Osama Bin Laden" appeared at the Talking Points Memo web site. Rep. Steve King tweeted "Wonder what President Obama thinks of water boarding now?" Rep. Peter King (R-NY) went on Bill O'Reilly to claim (falsely) that "We got that information through waterboarding. So for those who say that waterboarding doesn't work, who say it should be stopped and never used again, we got vital information which led directly to Bin Laden." The two Kings (Steve and Peter) were joined by Bush administration stalwarts like Karl Rove, John Woo (author of the infamous torture memo that described the Geneva Conventions as "quaint"), and Dick Cheney (the man who infamously claimed that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of getting nuclear weapons).
So, we can believe this discredited group, or we can listen to people with actual knowledge of what happened (the "reality-based community," as a prominent neo-con once called people of this sort). Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) stated flatly that "I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and in my view, nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used." And as Tanya Somanader noted in her post on Think Progress, former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the Bush years, said "I am skeptical that [waterboarding] was the 'critical info' to our week-end success," noting that it "ended years ago." And the National Security Network cites a statement by Mark Fallon, a former interrogator and head of the criminal investigation task force at Guantanamo: "I've seen no information that the infliction of pain equates to the elicitation of accurate information . . . it's a shame to diminish the incredible work that went on through the intelligence community with analysts and case officers that led to bin Laden's capture."
So, if you want to refute the claims of the right about the "value" of torture, the information is available. But we need to do it repeatedly, wherever and whenever these outrageous claims pop up, as they surely will in the run up to the 2012 presidential elections. To paraphrase the old adage, a lie repeated often enough starts to sound like the truth. We can't let them get away with that on an issue this important.
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