Earlier this year, the film "Zero Dark Thirty", which purports to dramatize the hunt for and killing of Osama bin Laden, generated substantial political controversy. It was discovered that CIA and White House officials had met with its filmmakers and passed non-public information to them - at exactly the same time that DOJ officials were in federal court resisting transparency requests from media outlets and activist groups on the ground that it was all classified.The "waterboarding led to the raid on bin Laden" story showed up recently on Morning Joe.
With its release imminent, the film is now garnering a pile of top awards and virtually uniform rave reviews. What makes this so remarkable is that, by most accounts, the film glorifies torture by claiming - falsely - that waterboarding and other forms of coercive interrogation tactics were crucial, even indispensable in finding bin Laden.
Too bad it's completely wrong - back to Greenwald:
The claim that waterboarding and other torture techniques were necessary in finding bin Laden was first made earlier this year by Jose Rodriguez, the CIA agent who illegally destroyed the agency's torture tapes, got protected from prosecution by the DOJ, and then profited off this behavior by writing a book. He made the same claim as "Zero Dark Thirty" regarding the role played by torture in finding bin Laden.From Senator Levin's and Senator Feinstein's statement:
That caused two Senators who are steadfast loyalists of the CIA - Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein and Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin - to issue statements definitively debunking this assertion. Even the CIA's then-Director, Leon Panetta, made clear that those techniques played no role in finding bin Laden. An FBI agent central to the bin Laden hunt said the same.
CIA did not first learn about the existence of the UBL courier from detainees subjected to coercive interrogation techniques. Nor did the agency discover the courier's identity from detainees subjected to coercive techniques. No detainee reported on the courier's full name or specific whereabouts, and no detainee identified the compound in which UBL was hidden. Instead, the CIA learned of the existence of the courier, his true name and location through means unrelated to the CIA detention and interrogation program.And if that's not good enough fer ya, here's what Panetta wrote in a letter to Senator John McCain:
Nearly 10 years of intensive intelligence work led the CIA to conclude that Bin Ladin was likely hiding at the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. there was no one “essential and indispensible” key piece of information that led us to this conclusion. Rather, the intelligence picture was developed via painstaking collection and analysis. Multiple streams of intelligence — including from detainees, but also from multiple other sources — led CIA analysts to conclude that Bin Ladin was at this compound. Some of the detainees who provided useful information about the facilitator/courier’s role had been subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. Whether those techniques were the “only timely and effective way” to obtain such information is a matter of debate and cannot be established definitively. What is definitive is that that information was only a part of multiple streams of intelligence that led us to Bin Ladin.So it's not the case that torture was the necessary component in gathering the intelligence necessary to find bin Laden - so this "ends justify the means" story is false.
Let me further point out that we first learned about the facilitator/courier’s nom de guerre from a detainee not in CIA custody in 2002. It is also important to note that some detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques attempted to provide false or misleading information about the facilitator/courier. These attempts to falsify the facilitator/courier’s role were alerting.
In the end, no detainee in CIA custody revealed the facilitator/courier’s full true name or specific whereabouts. This information was discovered through other intelligence means. [Emphasis from Washington Post reporting.]
Oh, and by the way, torture is still illegal. The Bush Administration still ordered the torture and they still haven't been held accountable for it. Until it is corrected, this one story will forever disgrace the Obama legacy - they let Bush get away with war crimes.
(h/t to Bob Mayo for posting Geenwald's piece on his facebook page)