Simulated drownings, sleep deprivation and similar torture techniques described as “cruel and ineffective” by some members of the U.S. Congress were said to have ultimately been unhelpful in the hunt for al-Qaeda boss Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a Navy SEAL strike in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011.
A Congressional report examining the value of the Bush-era “enhanced interrogation techniques,” caused a kerfuffle in the capital this week, with the Central Intelligence Agency disputing its suggestion that water-boarding, for example, did not yield intelligence that aided in the discovery of the courier who worked for bin Laden and ultimately the terror mastermind himself.
Citing unnamed official sources, including on Capitol Hill, the Associated Press reported that the report examined the treatment of several high-level terror detainees and the information they provided on bin Laden.
Among these detainees, the most high-profile link to the bin Laden investigation came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, said to have been water-boarded 183 times by the CIA, who confirmed after his 2003 capture that he knew “an important al Qawda courier with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.”
However the Senate report concludes, the AP said, that such information “wasn't critical,” and Mohammed only discussed al-Kuwaiti “months after being water-boarded.”
Similarly, despite extensively torturing senior al-Qaeda operative Abu Faraj al-Libi, who was captured in 2005 and held at a secret prison, the CIA reportedly did not obtain “significant” evidence from him on al-Kuwaiti.
“Essentially, [officials] argued, Mohammed, al-Libi and others subjected to harsh treatment confirmed only what investigators already knew about the courier.”
The actual intelligence lead on al-Kuwaiti, whose true identity was Sheikh Abu Ahmed, a Pakistani man born in Kuwait, still remains unclear, according to reports, but in a 2012 news release, Senator Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, acknowledged an unidentified “third detainee” had provided relevant information on the courier.
The AP report hinted at the usefulness of the global surveillance practices of the National Security Agency too, noting that “In the years when the CIA couldn't find where bin Laden's courier was, NSA eavesdroppers came up with nothing until 2010 – when Ahmed had a telephone conversation with someone monitored by U.S. intelligence.”
The findings of the report contradict the plot of the film “Zero Dark Thirty,” in which Director Catherine Bigelow appeared to draw a straight line linking CIA torture to intelligence on bin Laden’s associates.