The Washington Post

‘Our values’ didn’t stop Obama from tapping a valuable Bush-era tool

President Obama, both on the campaign trail and in office, accused his predecessor of sacrificing “our values.” By that, he meant deploying enhanced interrogation techniques to extract life-saving information from high-value terrorists. Once in office he condescendingly banned “torture,” which was already banned but was the chosen term with which the Obama crew could smear the Bush administration.

How times change. This NBC report explains:

Intelligence garnered from waterboarded detainees was used to track down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and kill him, CIA Chief Leon Panetta told NBC News on Tuesday.

“Enhanced interrogation techniques” were used to extract information that led to the mission’s success, Panetta said during an interview with anchor Brian Williams. Those techniques included waterboarding, he acknowledged.

Panetta, who in a 2009 CIA confirmation hearing declared “waterboarding is torture and it’s wrong,” said Tuesday that debate about its use will continue.

“Whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always gonna be an open question,” Panetta said.

“In the intelligence business you work from a lot of sources of information and that was true here,” Panetta said. “We had a multiple source — a multiple series of sources — that provided information with regards to the situation. Clearly some of it came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees but we also had information from other sources as well.”

And none other than Eric Holder, who reactivated an investigation of CIA agents who employed such techniques, was out defending “as lawful Tuesday the intelligence gathering and raid that resulted in the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.”

They owe the entire Bush team one heck of an apology, it would seem. John Yoo, a Bush Justice Department lawyer who set limits on the enhanced interrogation techniques (dubbed the author of “torture memos”) writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Sunday’s success also vindicates the Bush administration, whose intelligence architecture marked the path to bin Laden’s door. According to current and former administration officials, CIA interrogators gathered the initial information that ultimately led to bin Laden’s death. The United States located al Qaeda’s leader by learning the identity of a trusted courier from the tough interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, and his successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi.

Obama now prefers to blow up or kill terrorists, “whether by drones or special ops teams,” rather than grab and interrogate them, Yoo continued:

Early reports are conflicted, but it appears that bin Laden was not armed. . . . Special forces units using nonlethal weaponry might have taken bin Laden alive, as with other senior al Qaeda leaders before him.

If true, one of the most valuable intelligence opportunities since the beginning of the war has slipped through our hands. . . . His capture, like Saddam Hussein’s in December 2003, would have provided invaluable intelligence and been an even greater example of U.S. military prowess than his death.

I certainly have no qualms about killing terrorists , nor do I know enough to question whether nonlethal force would have put our SEALs in danger. But Yoo’s point remains valid: It’s time for Obama to get off his moral high horse and, more important, end a still-active witch hunt against CIA operatives. “Perhaps one day he will acknowledge his predecessor’s role in making this week’s dramatic success possible. More importantly, he should end the criminal investigation of CIA agents and restart the interrogation program that helped lead us to bin Laden.”But at least for now, can we agree that far from betraying our values, Bush courageously defended them?

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.


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