A Victory For Torture? Obama Officials Attempt To Justify Torture in Claiming False Credit For Bin Laden Killing

Current members of the Obama Administration (as well as former Bush officials) are claiming that all that torture under President Bush finally paid off in supplying the leads to eventually finding Osama bin Laden’s hideout. What is striking is not only the lack of any support for the claims, but the immediate effort of Obama officials to justify torture. No doubt these are the same officials supporting Obama’s decision to bar prosecution of individuals who carried out the torture — and later barring the investigation of those who ordered the torture.

Obama officials were claiming the positive proceeds from torture within hours of the killing. The officials are crediting the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Mohammed’s successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi.

However, as pointed out by sites like Wired, the claim does not jive with the facts. At most, the officials are claiming that Mohammed and al-Libi revealed the courier’s nom de guerre, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. However, a senior administration official admitted that “for years, we were unable to identify his true name or his location” and that his real name was revealed four years ago. That was in 2007 after the end of the torture program. Indeed, the critical act appeared to be a phone call made by the courier to someone under American surveillance.

Of course, none of this should matter. Just as the Bush officials continually responded to war crime allegations by claiming that the torture produced good intelligence, international law does not have an exception for beneficial acts of torture. It is a prohibited act and a war crime. Yet, Obama officials are not only justifying torture but suggesting that the use of torture is somehow legitimated if anything usable is derived from it.

Notably, when asked in Congress, Attorney General Eric Holder said that he was unsure of the contribution of evidence from torture –stating that the operation was the result of a “mosiac” of sources. What is disturbing, however, is that once again Holder does not point out that gaining usable evidence from torture is no justification for the war crime under international law or basic principles of morality. Panetta also equivocated on whether torture helped without making the slightest acknowledgment that it is a prohibited war crime regardless of its value or success.

It is equally interesting to see CIA officials stoking such stories and (rightfully) questioning the culpability of Pakistani intelligence. However, what does Bin Laden living for years in a huge compound say for our current intelligence capabilities? We heard continual CIA reports of Bin Laden being in caves and other locations. If the story is true that he was in area for years, shouldn’t there also be some question of our own capabilities since we have long said that we could not trust Pakistani security officials? There is no question that the CIA and military performed brilliantly once they identified the site. However, there is little discussion about the failure on our part (putting aside Pakistan) to locate the site — particularly with claims of prior intelligence from foreign agents in Pakistan and India.

In the end, it is distressing to see Obama officials so quickly seek to legitimate torture. The President has admitted that waterboarding is torture. Torture is a war crime. Yet, here officials are seeking to immediately shape the story in terms of the value of torture.

Jonathan Turley

70 thoughts on “A Victory For Torture? Obama Officials Attempt To Justify Torture in Claiming False Credit For Bin Laden Killing”

  1. Roco who ever you are, knowing that your not me, it is because

    I’m a racist homophobe thats a bigot birther that just happens to be good to his mother 🙂

    Thats how.

  2. Bdaman:

    Obama gave the order. He is a superior commander in chief. How dare you suggest otherwise.

  3. The other strange story is this one.

    Shot dead ‘with money sewn into his clothes’: Bin Laden was captured alive and then executed, ‘claims daughter, 12’

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1383106/Osama-Bin-Laden-dead-Wife-watched-die-White-House-reveals-WASNT-armed.html#ixzz1LTYJwyVw

    ‘Not a single bullet was fired from the compound.

    How is it that the noise from the helicopters didn’t alarm those in the compound along with the fog of war that not a single shot was fired at the raiders of the lost bin laden?

  4. Lottakatz, sorry I had to go to bed after my comment. My mother has been keeping me awake at night and is killing me 🙂

    I took the quote, “Mr Panetta also revealed that the US Navy Seals made the final decision to kill bin Laden rather than the president.” and put it into google. It’s everywhere.


    I guess Panetta said it. One has to wonder what was on his mind 🙂
    Proof it is the fog of war? 🙂

  5. LK, not at all. It was a dead serious picture, consistent with my own experience. One never gets used to it, at least if you have a soul. I do not see any grins or jubilation in that photo at all. Notice the look on the President’s face as well as his posture. That speaks volumes.

    That is the only photo I have seen as well.

  6. OS, the hand over mouth gesture she was using was entirely consistent with shock and/or self suppression; she was watching something deeply disturbing. I hope by your reply to me (“There is nothing “fun” or “nice” about it.”) that I did not give the impression that I thought she was enjoying what she was seeing/hearing. I am familiar with only one photo released by the WH but there may have been more that I have not seen.


  7. LK, I have watched people die, and I have seen more than my share of dead bodies. There is nothing “fun” or “nice” about it. I am old now, and I am still not indifferent to death. Having said that, I would have lost no sleep had I been the one who came face to face with one of the most dangerous men on the planet. In the words of a Marine sniper I know, “You do what you have to do.”

    As for that fateful phone call, from what I could find in the various news reports, it was the courier making a phone call that was the tipping point. He could have called from anywhere, even if he just went outside in the compound. There is cell phone service outdoors in urban areas. We know he had been tracked for months. If there was a blackout, it was probably because the team was inside a Faraday Cage in all or part of the building. I am sure they were recording the whole time, so if the President and his staff watched it, it could have even been a replay from the helicopter as they were egressing the scene.

  8. OS, I looked for a story I read shortly after the announcement that discussed the fact that no cell phones or Internet access were allowed in the compound but that ,a phone was activated at some point by someone and that allowed ‘us’ to get a fix on a Bin Laden aide within the compound. I can’t find it. I’ve just seen too many articles.

    You are right that a Faraday cage would be easy to install but if this was true why would there be any prohibition on the use of a cell phone or a computer with Internet access/wifi?

    Who knows what went on? We probably will never know and that’s not different from any raid like this one. They went to kill a very bad man and probably got the job done in good order. If he wasn’t killed he’s somewhere that probably only 6 people in the world know about, being mined for info. In any event he’s gone, totally gone, and that’s that. The virtue of the rash of new conspiracy theories is lost on me but arguing over the details is interesting 🙂

    Personally, I think he’s dead, executed as planned and that it was watched real-time by the President and his close aides. I can’t imagine a picture of Hilary Clinton with ‘that’ expression, like the one released by the WH, without her watching people die.

  9. lottakatz I’m not buying alot either. It all seems very very fishy to me. But hey I’m a conspiracy kinda a guy 🙂

  10. lottakatz, I would be surprised to find the house was NOT shielded. They had all the money they needed to make it secure and it would only make sense that the house would be a virtual Faraday Cage. When I am at the jail or in some parts of the hospital, my cell phone will not work due to the steel in the walls.

    Heavy shielding would be a normal precaution against wall penetrating technology which all the highly developed nations have in their intelligence arsenal. A satellite phone feed would not work in a shielded environment.

    By heavy shielding, I do not necessarily mean massive steel plates or anything like that. Copper mesh would serve the purpose quite well, as would a larger than usual amount of rebar in the concrete walls.

  11. Bdaman, interesting article though I did find the use of language odd in this sentence; they misplaced “rather than”:

    “Mr Panetta also revealed that the US Navy Seals made the final decision to kill bin Laden rather than the president.”

    I’m glad the SEAL’s they decided not to kill the President 🙂

    There doesn’t seem to be any information regarding Bin Laden’s compound being shielded so I’m wondering how the photo gear the SEAL’s used could be less efficient and reliable than a cellphone, laptop etc. The raid was live-blogged from a house or apartment down the road was it not? I’m not buying the “no video feed” story.

  12. The head of the CIA admitted yesterday that there was no live video footage of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound as further doubts emerged about the US version of events.

    Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, revealed there was a 25 minute blackout during which the live feed from cameras mounted on the helmets of the US special forces was cut off.

    A photograph released by the White House appeared to show the President and his aides in the situation room watching the action as it unfolded. In fact they had little knowledge of what was happening in the compound.


  13. SM,

    “Sl She likes guns, puts targets on people, and now she wants to look at violent pictures.”

    I know this is gross but I just can’t help myself … she’s probably into snuff films as well.

  14. Sl She likes guns, puts targets on people, and now she wants to look at violent pictures. Still wonder if she is running.

  15. Swarthmore,

    I just read an article on salon.com regarding the Quitter-In-Chief … she really is such a petty and unintelligent sub-human.

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