McCain: Mukasey Claim That Torture Led To Bin Laden Is False

Last night on The Ed Show, I discussed the amazing speech and column by Senator John McCain on torture. One of the most notable aspects of the comments was McCain stating that the claim by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey that torture led to the location of Bin Laden is simply untrue and confirmed as false by CIA Director Leon Panetta.

As did Ron Paul in the recent Republican debate, John McCain confronted his colleagues over the effort to redeem torture by claiming that it was beneficial in this case. As he correctly notes, torture is a war crime not because it lacks any benefit in terms of intelligence but because it is immoral.

One of the most interesting passages was:

Former attorney general Michael Mukasey recently claimed that “the intelligence that led to bin Laden . . . began with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who broke like a dam under the pressure of harsh interrogation techniques that included waterboarding. He loosed a torrent of information — including eventually the nickname of a trusted courier of bin Laden.” That is false.

I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

To the contrary, McCain points out that the torture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed resulted in demonstrably “false and misleading information.”

Where I part with McCain is his insistence that, despite it being torture (and thus a war crime), no one should ever be punished for the crimes. It is important to stand for principle but it is even more important to bear the responsibility that comes with principle. It may not be popular or convenient, but we are obligated to investigate and prosecute torture.

48 thoughts on “McCain: Mukasey Claim That Torture Led To Bin Laden Is False

  1. Much as I’d like to give McCain points for his speech I have to note that he’s changed his position on torture when it’s been to his advantage. I wait for the other shoe to drop whenever he makes a statement. ‘What does this have to do with his political aspirations’ is my question. I am of the opinion that that question is the basis for every act McCain does so I’m wondering what’s up.

    That being said I’m glad that the issue of torture is again being discussed regardless of any role it did or didn’t play in developing the information in question. The merit of prosecuting low level players while the architects are given a pass is an argument that’s always worth having. I would hope it could change the President’s mind but I know that hope is the stuff of fantasy.

  2. I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts,

    SEAL helmet cams recorded entire bin Laden raid
    More accurate version of what happened includes details that bin Laden first emerged on third floor, retreated to bedroom after shot fired

    (CBS News)

    WASHINGTON – A new picture emerged Thursday of what really happened the night the Navy SEALs swooped in on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

    CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports the 40 minutes it took to kill bin Laden and scoop his archives into garbage bags were all recorded by tiny helmet cameras worn by each of the 25 SEALs.

    Officials reviewing those videos are still reconstructing a more accurate version of what happened. We now know that the only firefight took place in the guest house, where one of bin Laden’s couriers opened fire and was quickly gunned down. No one in the main building got off a shot or was even armed, although there were weapons nearby.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/05/12/eveningnews/main20062410.shtml?tag=cbsContent;cbsCarousel

  3. lottakatz, maybe McCain is thinking of his ”legacy”. He’s said so many different things he may think the last is what people will take as his ‘real’ opinion.

  4. They say the maverick is back on this issue. The maverick has been absent for ten years. Has a six year term in Arizona. I doubt he will run for anything again. Wish he would ease up on gays in the military.

  5. Maybe this was new information only to me, but I heard Donald Rumsfeld interviewed recently and of course the question of waterboarding came up. He said that no waterboarding was done at Gitmo. He didn’t say where Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other were tortured, but insisted that none of it was done at Gitmo. He didn’t deny it was done and I don’t recall that he tried to give any credit to torture for the intel on OBL. That there was no waterboarding there doesn’t change anything Gitmo or torture, but it corrects what I thought was going on there.

  6. Well, good on McCain, though he holds forth from the land of Days Late, Dollars Short. And no Senator’s speech substitutes for the seating of civilian grand juries to probe matters of torture.

  7. And no Senator’s speech substitutes for the seating of civilian grand juries to probe matters of torture.
    -James in LA

    Well said. And I hope I live to see the day, if it ever comes…

  8. Civilian grand juries related to torture?

    I hope I get to serve on one.

    One lives to be of service.

  9. Something jumps out at me in this whole thing: “McCain said that CIA Director Leon Panetta told him: “The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti – the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden – as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.”

    The Obama administration admits freely that three detainees were waterboarded. That is torture and should trigger investigations for war crimes.

    The US govt. will not press charges for torture. It currently engages in torture at several black site prisons in Afghanistan. It engages in extraordinary rendition to nations which torture. In short, the former and current administrations were/are engaged in war crimes without penalty. That people, both liberal and conservative accept this lack of prosecution is a complete disaster for the survival of our nation.

  10. “The US govt. will not press charges for torture. It currently engages in torture at several black site prisons in Afghanistan. It engages in extraordinary rendition to nations which torture. In short, the former and current administrations were/are engaged in war crimes without penalty. That people, both liberal and conservative accept this lack of prosecution is a complete disaster for the survival of our nation.” -Jill

    Well said. And there is an ongoing debate about domestic activities that constitute torture. Few seem to be paying attention and/or care. We live in a “if it doesn’t directly impact me, it’s of little consequence” culture…

  11. From Crooks and Liars:

    Turley: ‘Torture Isn’t a War Crime Because It’s Never Beneficial. It’s a War Crime Because It’s Immoral’
    http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/turley-torture-isnt-war-crime-because-its-ne

    Excerpt:
    While I commend Sen. John McCain for speaking out on the Senate floor this week condemning those who have come out since the death of Osama bin Laden defending the use of waterboarding — or as they want to call it, “enhanced interrogation” — and claiming that the torture somehow worked to gain intelligence, McCain is still on the wrong side of the issue with saying he doesn’t believe anyone should be prosecuted. Jonathan Turley rightfully pointed that out to Ed Schultz tonight.

    He also expressed his disdain for the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision not to investigate and hold members of the Bush administration accountable for war crimes, which I share.

    TURLEY: One of the most powerful things about McCain’s speech is the truism that lies beneath it where he says, you know, being tortured is simply immoral. You know, I think much of the world is shocked by the debate that we’re having. This whole question of did it yield usable intelligence has long been rejected by the world and by the United States and its treaties as a viable argument for torture. Torture isn’t a war crime because it’s never beneficial. It’s a war crime because it’s immoral, because it is a war crime.

    And you can imagine how we look to the world in this debate when we have all of these officials who not only say that they ordered torture, but are trying to sell the American people on how good torture really is.

    I also always cynically wonder about John McCain’s political motivations any time he looks like he’s doing the right thing. While I have no doubt that his personal experience with being tortured as a prisoner of war has as much to do with him speaking out as anything, he also still really doesn’t have any use for any of the Bushies or George W. Bush after what they did to him when he ran against Bush for president and Karl Rove ran that whisper campaign against him in South Carolina. McCain always seems to have a penchant for doing the right thing if it means getting some digs in on his political enemies and ignoring wrong doings when it’s politically convenient as well.

  12. …grammatically incorrect, as first stated, but…

    We live in an “if it doesn’t directly impact me, it’s of little consequence” culture…

    To this point, maybe nothing has changed.

  13. This public cacophony is stark if Noam Chomsky is correct in saying that the U.S. is suppressing mid-east democracy while publicly saying mid-east democracy is good.

    Mid-easterners have suffered the brunt of US torture, so if those folks get to vote guess who gets voted out?

    Noam Chomsky’s Answer

  14. Mukasey is bought and paid for by the Teapublicans. It is a disgrace to read and hear the crap he spewed about torture and what he is saying now. And this guy was a former Federal Judge. Maybe his past decisions should be looked at for conflict issues.

  15. what political pandering bull. McCain can’t say whether torture did or didn’t contribute to finding Osama. He is only saying so because that is what so many want to hear.

    The truth is we’ll never know. Chances are that torture of some sort or another(and we still have the problem everyone ignores in that it is impossible to debate torture when you can’t define it) did help.

    NOT THAT IT MATTERS.

    The fact that some sort of disrespect of a prisoner performed sometime over the last 10+ years contributed to the intelligence used to find Osama is NOT a justification of torture. Not by a long shot.

  16. http://www.salon.com/news/osama_bin_laden/index.html?story=/opinion/greenwald/2011/05/13/nuremberg

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    The quaint and obsolete Nuremberg principles
    by Glenn Greenwald

    (excerpt)

    Benjamin Ferencz is a 92-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, American combat soldier during World War II, and a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, where he prosecuted numerous Nazi war criminals, including some responsible for the deaths of upward of 100,000 innocent people. He gave a fascinating (and shockingly articulate) 13-minute interview yesterday to the CBC in Canada about the bin Laden killing, the Nuremberg principles, and the U.S. role in the world. Without endorsing everything he said, I hope as many people as possible will listen to it.

    http://www.cbc.ca/video/news/audioplayer.html?clipid=1921021571

  17. Benjamin Ferencz as quoted in Greenwald’s article cited in the previous comment:

    “All of Ferencz’s answers are thought-provoking — including his discussion of how the Nuremberg Principles apply to bin Laden — but there’s one answer he gave which I particularly want to highlight; it was in response to this question: “so what should we have learned from Nuremberg that we still haven’t learned”? His answer:

    I’m afraid most of the lessons of Nuremberg have passed, unfortunately. The world has accepted them, but the U.S. seems reluctant to do so. The principal lesson we learned from Nuremberg is that a war of aggression — that means, a war in violation of international law, in violation of the UN charter, and not in self-defense — is the supreme international crime, because all the other crimes happen in war. And every leader who is responsible for planning and perpetrating that crime should be held to account in a court of law, and the law applies equally to everyone.

    These lessons were hailed throughout the world — I hailed them, I was involved in them — and it saddens me to no end when Americans are asked: why don’t you support the Nuremberg principles on aggression? And the response is: Nuremberg? That was then, this is now. Forget it.”

  18. anon nurse,

    Nice link to salon.

    Are all our good values going down the drain?

    The Mukasey philosophy of blatant falsehood is being used to cover up the fact that the Fukushima nuclear disaster is getting worse.

    Meanwhile, more Fukushima style plants are under way here as they tell us everything is fine.

  19. from the Greenwald piece:

    “Both political parties — and the current President — have invented entirely new Orwellian slogans of pure lawlessness to justify this protection (Look Forward, Not Backward): one that selectively operates to protect only high-level U.S. war criminals but not those who expose their crimes. Worse, many of Bush’s most egregious crimes — including the false pretenses that led to this unfathomably lethal aggressive war and the widespread abuse of prisoners that accompanied it — were well known to the country when it re-elected him in 2004.

    Those who advocated for those massive crimes — and even those who are directly responsible for them — continue to enjoy perfectly good standing in mainstream American political circles. The aptly named “Shock and Awe” was designed to terrify an entire civilian population into submission through the use of massive and indiscriminate displays of air bombings. John Podhoretz criticized the brutal assault on Fallujah for failing to exterminate all “Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35.” The country’s still-most celebrated “foreign affairs expert” at The New York Times justified that attack based on the psycopathic desire to make Iraqis “Suck. On. This.”

    The Washington Post hires overt torture advocates as Op-Ed writers and regularly features Op-Ed contributions from the architects of the Iraq crime, as they did just today (Donald Rumsfeld claiming “vindication”). And, of course, we continue to produce widespread civilian deaths in multiple countries around the world with virtually no domestic objection.”

  20. Anon Nurse,

    Thanks for that audio clip, to which I just finished listening. It is a good argument/counterargument discourse and worth every bit of its 23 minutes timeframe. I concur with Attorney Ferencz.

  21. Dredd,

    Re: “Are all our good values going down the drain?”

    Many of them are, it would seem. (Thanks for the Fukishima link…)

  22. Greenwald holds nothing back in his article today. I agree with everything he states.

    A year or so ago, I suggested that what Americans needed was –‘The Turley & Greenwald Constitutional Law Hour’ at least once a week.

  23. FF LEO,

    I listened to it, as well, and agree that it’s worth the 13 (or 23?) minutes. (I had it on in the background and it went pretty quickly.)

  24. “A year or so ago, I suggested that what Americans needed was –’The Turley & Greenwald Constitutional Law Hour’ at least once a week.” -FF LEO

    What a great idea!

  25. Anon Nurse, they added a rebuttal by another well qualified lawyer that lasted about 10-11minutes more.

  26. anon nurse,

    I read the salon post.

    I also listened to the recording of the 92 year old lawyer Ferencz, professor, prosecutor at Nuremberg, and advocate for the rule of international law concerning such matters.

    I listened to the rebuttal too, as did fellow bloggers upthread.

    I am as alarmed as Ferencz is.

    Dangerous days are ahead as we move closer to the peak of the oil wars, losing our traditional national values along the way.

  27. FF LEO,

    I should have realized that you were including the time for the rebuttal…

    ——————-

    Dredd wrote:

    “I am as alarmed as Ferencz is.

    Dangerous days are ahead as we move closer to the peak of the oil wars, losing our traditional national values along the way.”

    Dredd,

    So am I. We are in dangerous times, indeed. I’d like to see us start with the Patriot Act — in part, because I can think of no other place to begin, at the moment.

    ———————

    Swarthmore mom, Thanks for the links, as always…

    ———————

    For all:

    What follows is a video of Bruce Fein following his recent Judiciary Committee testimony on the Patriot Act:

    He states: “It’s the duty of the true patriot to protect the country from the government.” (I’m not sure if it will embed.)

  28. As Professor Turley stated: “It may not be popular or convenient, but we are obligated to investigate and prosecute torture.”

    It’s that simple.

  29. Yep.

    Our nation will never get back on the right track until torture prosecutions are had.

  30. When ones nights are turned into days and vice versa,it feels good to be able to come to a site and get the “real”.

  31. Dredd, Thanks for the links. This is a good site for Fukushima news and analysis, the ‘updates’ tab has a good archive of analysis:

    http://www.fairewinds.com/home

    “Gundersen says Fukushima’s gaseous and liquid releases continue unabated. With a meltdown at Unit 1, Unit 4 leaning and facing possible collapse, several units contaminating ground water, and area school children outside the exclusion zone receiving adult occupational radiation doses, the situation continues to worsen. TEPCO needs a cohesive plan and international support to protect against world-wide contamination.”

  32. Lottkatz,

    These things illustrate a broad based increase in a loss of reason in governments around the world.

    Cheney, Mukasey, and the rest have counterparts in almost every nation it would seem.

  33. Mukasey answers to a ‘Higher Law’.
    In its current Reductio ad Absurdum, we behold this mongrel “Jewish-Democracy.”
    He always chanted “His Master’s Voice!”

    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

    rafflaw
    1, May 13, 2011 at 1:10 pm
    Mukasey is bought and paid for by the Teapublicans. It is a disgrace to read and hear the crap he spewed about torture and what he is saying now. And this guy was a former Federal Judge. Maybe his past decisions should be looked at for conflict issues.

  34. They hate us for our freedoms
    BY GLENN GREENWALD
    Salon, 5/15/2011
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/05/15/afghanistan/index.html

    Excerpt:

    The New York Times reports today:

    For the second time in three days, a night raid in eastern Afghanistan by NATO forces resulted in the death of a child, setting off protests on Saturday that turned violent and ended in the death of a second boy. . . .

    “American forces did an operation and mistakenly killed a fourth-grade student; he had gone to sleep in his field and had a shotgun next to him,” [the district’s governor, Abdul Khalid]. said. “People keep shotguns with them for hunting, not for any other purposes,” Mr. Khalid said.

    The boy, [15], was the son of an Afghan National Army soldier . . . When morning came, an angry crowd gathered in Narra, the boy’s village, and more than 200 people marched with his body to the district center. Some of the men were armed and confronted the police, shouting anti-American slogans . . .

    The police opened fire in an effort to push back the crowd to stop its advance to the district center. A 14-year-old boy was killed, and at least one other person was wounded, Mr. Khalid said. . . .

    On Thursday, a night raid by international forces in Nangahar Province resulted in the death of a 12-year-old girl and her uncle, who was a member of the Afghan National Police.

    There’s nothing much new to say here, but every now and then, it’s worth highlighting not only what we’re doing, but what the results are. Just imagine the accumulated hatred from having things like this happen day after day, week after week, year after year, for a full decade now, with no end in sight — broadcast all over the region. It’s literally impossible to convey in words the level of bloodthirsty fury and demands for vengeance that would arise if a foreign army were inside the U.S. killing innocent American children even a handful of times, let alone continuously for a full decade.

    It’s the perfect self-perpetuating cycle: (1) They hate us and want to attack us because we’re over there; therefore, (2) we have to stay and proliferate ourselves because they hate us and want to attack us; (3) our staying and proliferating ourselves makes them hate us and want to attack us more; therefore, (4) we can never leave, because of how much they hate us and want to attack us. The beauty of this War on Terror — and, as the last two weeks have demonstrated, War is the bipartisan consensus for what we are and should be doing to address Terrorism — is that it forever sustains its own ostensible cause.

  35. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/17/santorum-mccain-doesnt-understand-torture_n_863306.html

    Santorum: McCain ‘Doesn’t Understand’ Interrogation

    By DONNA CASSATA 05/17/11

    WASHINGTON — Former Sen. Rick Santorum said Tuesday that Sen. John McCain, who spent 5 1/2 years enduring brutal treatment at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors, doesn’t know how effective waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques can be. The Republican presidential contender insisted the tactics led the United States to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

    McCain said he asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and that the hunt for bin Laden did not begin with fresh information from Mohammed. In fact, the name of bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, came from a detainee held in another country.

    “Not only did the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed, it actually produced false and misleading information,” McCain said.

    In an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday, Santorum said McCain was wrong.

    “Everything I’ve read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation,” Santorum said. “And so this idea that we didn’t ask that question while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he (McCain) doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works.

    “I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative. And that’s when we got this information. And one thing led to another, and led to another, and that’s how we ended up with bin Laden,” said Santorum.

    He added: “Maybe McCain has better information than I do, but from what I’ve seen, it seems pretty clear that but for these cooperative witnesses who were cooperative as a result of enhanced interrogations, we would not have gotten bin Laden.”

    McCain, the 2008 Republican president nominee, said his information came from Panetta. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, backed up McCain’s assessment that waterboarding of Mohammed did not produce the tip that led to bin Laden.

    Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for McCain, said Tuesday she would not dignify Santorum’s comments with a response.

    In the House, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the Intelligence committee, said the Justice Department should stop investigating CIA interrogators for alleged abuse of detainees under the Bush administration because their work was a “vital part of the chain” that led to the successful raid on bin Laden’s hideout.

    The Justice Department had no comment.

    AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier contributed to this report.S

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