Osama Bin Laden Death Reignites Battle Over Waterboarding, 'Enhanced Interrogation'

Bush administration claims "vindication" amid renewed interrogation debate.

ByABC News
May 3, 2011, 12:13 PM

May 3, 2011 -- The death of Osama bin Laden has reignited debate about interrogation techniques and whether the framework set up during the Bush administration to detain and interrogate suspected terrorists contributed to the eventual capture of the al Qaeda leader.

In the hours after bin Laden's death Sunday, senior Obama administration officials said detainees had provided the nom de guerre of the courier who eventually lead intelligence officers to the compound housing bin Laden. Officials said the courier, who was killed during Sunday's raid, was identified by detainees as a protege of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- considered the mastermind of 9/11 -- and that he might be "living with and protecting" bin Laden.

Read more about the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The senior administration officials provided no information on who conducted the interviews and where they took place. But the comments sparked a debate about whether the information might have been the result of controversial, harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding used by intelligence officials against high-value detainees in secret overseas prisons run by the CIA in the years after 9/11.

President Bush confirmed the existence of the prisons in September of 2006, saying that the program had received strict oversight by the CIA's inspector general. But human rights groups said some of the techniques officials had used amounted to torture.

Upon taking office, President Obama signed an executive order barring the use of interrogation techniques not already authorized in the military's U.S. Army Field Manual.

At a hearing today before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder was asked if the intelligence that lead to the operation was derived from any enhanced interrogation techniques. "There was a mosaic of sources," he said.

Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., asked the attorney general whether the public could rest assured that the intelligence did not involve enhanced techniques.

"I do not know," Holder testified.

In an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl Monday, former Vice President Dick Cheney was asked about reports that the information might have come directly from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was held by the CIA and later transferred to Guantanamo Bay Cuba. The Bush administration has acknowledged that Mohammed had been subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques while in CIA custody.

Cheney, who has in the past defended the use of the interrogations such as waterboarding, said, "Well, it's an enhanced interrogation program that we put in place back in our first term. And I don't know the details. All I know is what I've seen in the newspaper at this point, but it wouldn't be surprising if in fact that program produced results that ultimately contributed to the success of this venture."

Cheney went on to say that it is important to look at the operation as a "continuum."

"I mean it's not just on one day you get up, bang, and you got Osama bin Laden," he said. "It's the kind of thing where an awful lot of people over a long period of time, thousands have worked this case and worked these issues and followed up on the leads and captured bad guys and interrogated them and so forth."

But Cheney's daughter, Liz Cheney, who sits on the board of an organization called Keep America Safe, went a step further.