The killing of Osama bin Laden on Sunday has reignited the debate over so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. Early reports (information is still coming out) indicate that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed released vital information about bin Laden's courier, who eventually led American intelligence forces to the compound where they both were killed. But it's not clear exactly which interrogation techniques led to that information, since it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to separate out the different interrogation methods and claim that a single piece of informaiton was obtained through this method, but not that one.
Hence the blanket claim that waterboarding did not produce intelligence that led to bin Laden's death is simply un-provable, as CIA Director Leon Panetta, recently tapped by Obama for Secretary of Defense, illustrated in this exchange with Brian Williams:
WILLIAMS: I’d like to ask you about the sourcing on the intel that ultimately led to this successful attack. Can you confirm that it was as a result of waterboarding that we learned what we needed to learn to go after Bin Laden?
PANETTA: You know, Brian, in the intelligence business you work from a lot of sources of information, and that was true here. We had a multiple series of sources that provided information with regards to this situation. Clearly, some of it came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees, but we also had information from other sources as well. So it’s a little difficult to say it was due just to one source of information that we got.
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.
Video and transcript via Jim Treacher.
What are your thoughts on the waterboarding debate as it relates to bin Laden's death? Can it properly be credited with producing actionable intelligence?