CIA Said Torture Helped Us Capture Bin Laden, But The Senate Report Says Differently

On May 2, 2011, we learned Navy SEALs had done in a matter of hours what our military had been trying to do for ten years: find Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden, who was the founder of the terrorist group al Qaeda, had taken credit for organizing the 9/11 attacks; afterwards, he took the No. 1 spot on the U.S.'s hit list. The team of Navy SEALs, dubbed "Seal Team Six," were lauded as American heroes, and the CIA took partial credit, noting they obtained the necessary information using "advanced interrogation techniques," otherwise known as torture. However, a new report from Associated Press reporter Ken Dilanian reveals CIA allegedly lied about torture's role in Bin Laden's capture, namely: it never played a role in the first place.

Woof. There's a lot to unpack here. The CIA's story reportedly went as follows: a detainee confessed the identity of bin Laden's courier, named Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, after he was brutally tortured at a secret CIA interrogation site. We bought this story so much, it actually ended up in Zero Dark Thirty — a movie about the U.S. military's hunt for bin Laden.

This is where the Senate's report comes in to poke holes in the story:

A review of CIA records found that the initial intelligence obtained, as well as the information the CIA identified as the most critical or the most valuable on Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, was not related to the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques.
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The report continues by saying the CIA repeatedly misled officials about what information they obtained before and after torture, and information regarding bin Laden's courier actually came out before torture was ever used. Yikes.

In fact, the Senate reports, the CIA had obtained more than enough before using torture, including: al-Kuwaiti's phone number, email address, age, physical description, association to bin Laden, and family information. The Senate's report points out a specific detainee – Hassan Ghul – gave up what they consider to be the most valuable information any detainee has given well before he was tortured. He reportedly was tortured in the days after, but gave up no new information.

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The CIA officially countered these claims in the Senate's report:

[The intelligence] was insufficient to distinguish al-Kuwaiti from many other bin Laden associates until additional information from detainees put it into context and allowed CIA to better understand his true role and potential in the hunt for bin Laden.

Additionally, they attest that another key detainee, Ammar al-Baluchi, did not give up valuable information regarding al-Kuwaiti's courier role until after he was tortured.

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These counterarguments are interesting, but the CIA's credibility isn't looking too good right now. I'm not sure how they expect to be believed in this scenario, considering the American public has just been given reams of reasons not to trust them in the form of years and years of lies. We may never know what transpired in these secret torture chambers, but what we should glean from this fiasco is that nothing should be accepted at face value.

Images: Getty (3)