CIA Torture Report: Why It Didn't Help in the Hunt for Osama Bin Laden

PHOTO: In this April 1998 file photo, al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is seen in Afghanistan.PlayAP Photo
WATCH Senate Torture Report Condemns CIA Tactics

The report released today by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded that the most valuable information on Osama bin Laden was obtained outside of enhanced interrogation techniques or prior to detainees even being held by the CIA.

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Several detainees provided information about Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, bin Laden’s courier, which led to the raid that killed him. According to the report, the information was obtained outside the enhanced interrogation techniques program.

"While CIA detainees eventually did provide some information on Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti beginning in the spring of 2003, the majority of the accurate intelligence acquired on Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti was collected outside of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program," according to the report.

Here's what the report found:

  • In classified briefings to the Senate Intel and Armed Services Committee, CIA officials and Director Leon Panetta consistently misrepresented how much information was gleaned from detainees by enhanced interrogation techniques.
  • The report lists several quotes from a May 2011 closed briefing including one from Panetta himself: "The detainees in the post-9/11 period flagged for us that there were individuals that provided direct support to bin Ladin ... and one of those identified was a courier who had the nickname Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti. That was back in 2002." The report says this is incorrect and that no one in custody in 2002 provided that information.
  • Some of the most important information bin Laden's whereabouts came from Hassan Ghul, before he was subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. He was first detained in 2004 at detention site Cobalt, where, according to a CIA officer familiar with the initial interrogations there, "He sang like a tweetie bird. He opened up right away and was cooperative from the outset." He gave information that produced 21 intelligence reports in those two days.
  • But after Ghul was taken to detention site Black, he was subjected to 59 hours of sleep deprivation and complained of hallucinations and great pain. He was told that was normal and that they would go away "when [Ghul] was confirmed as telling the truth." In 2005 the CIA told the DOJ that the key information Ghul provided came after the use of the enhanced interrogation techniques.
  • The day after Panetta briefed the Senate in May 2011, the CIA provided those committees a chart on which misrepresented how many detainees in CIA custody had provided information, and when. The chart said 12 detainees provided "Tier One" (the best) information but did not mention that 5 of those detainees (41 percent) had provided such info before they were in CIA custody.
  • The report says that nine of the detainees were being subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques but doesn't mention that five of the nine provided information before being tortured, three of the remaining four were not questioned substantially before being subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. So maybe they had good info but were never asked to share it before being tortured.
  • The report contains some internal communications within the CIA that show the CIA doubted its own information being obtained via enhanced interrogation techniques. A 2005 CIA study on the search for bin Laden says detainees provided few actionable leads and "we have to consider the possibility that they are creating fictitious characters to distract us or to absolve themselves of direct knowledge about Bin Ladin."
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