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. 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.”


    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.)

  2. 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.

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

  4. “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!

  5. 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.)

  6. 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.

  7. Dredd,

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

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.”

  10. 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.

  11. 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.”


    Friday, May 13, 2011

    The quaint and obsolete Nuremberg principles
    by Glenn Greenwald


    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.

  13. 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.


    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.

  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. 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

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