WASHINGTON — A Senate investigation concludes waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods provided no key evidence in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to congressional aides and outside experts familiar with a still-secret, 6,200-page report. The finding could deepen the worst rift in years between lawmakers and the CIA.
The CIA disputes the conclusion and already is locked with the Senate intelligence committee in an acrimonious fight amid dueling charges of snooping and competing criminal referrals to the Justice Department. The congressional panel plans to vote Thursday to demand a summary of its review be declassified.
From the moment of bin Laden's death almost three years ago, former Bush administration figures and top CIA officials have cited the evidence trail leading to the al-Qaida mastermind's walled Pakistani compound as vindication of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" they authorized after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
But Democratic and some Republican senators have called that account misleading, saying simulated drownings known as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other such practices were cruel and ineffective.
The intelligence committee's report, congressional aides and outside experts told the Associated Press, backs up that case after examining the treatment of several high-level terror detainees and the information they provided on bin Laden. The aides and people briefed on the report demanded anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.
The most high-profile detainee linked to the bin Laden investigation was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused 9/11 mastermind who was waterboarded 183 times. Mohammed, intelligence officials have noted, confirmed after his 2003 capture that he knew an important al-Qaida courier with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.
The Senate report concludes such information wasn't critical, according to the aides. Mohammed only discussed al-Kuwaiti months after being waterboarded, while he was under standard interrogation, they said. And Mohammed neither acknowledged al-Kuwaiti's significance nor provided interrogators with the courier's real name.
The debate over how investigators put the pieces together is significant because years later, the courier led U.S. intelligence to the sleepy Pakistani military town of Abbottabad. There, in May 2011, Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in a secret mission.