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Experts dismiss usefulness of harsh interrogations in bin Laden hunt

Spectators and media members stand behind Pakistani police officers blocking a street Wednesday that leads into the compound of slain al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

Associated Press

Spectators and media members stand behind Pakistani police officers blocking a street Wednesday that leads into the compound of slain al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

WASHINGTON — Even as a chorus of Bush administration officials claimed vindication for their policy of "enhanced interrogation techniques," like waterboarding, a closer look at prisoner interrogations suggests that the harsh techniques played a small role at most in identifying bin Laden's trusted courier and exposing his hideout.

One detainee who apparently was subjected to some tough treatment provided a crucial description of the courier, according to the New York Times, which cited current and former officials briefed on the interrogations.

But two prisoners who underwent some of the harshest treatment — including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times — repeatedly misled their interrogators about the courier's identity.

Glenn L. Carle, a retired CIA officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002, said this week that coercive techniques "didn't provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information." He said that while some of his colleagues defended the measures, "Everyone was deeply concerned and most felt it was un-American and did not work."

Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, said, "The bottom line is this: If we had some kind of smoking-gun intelligence from waterboarding in 2003, we would have taken out Osama bin Laden in 2003. It took years of collection and analysis from many different sources to develop the case that enabled us to identify this compound, and reach a judgment that bin Laden was likely to be living there."

Pakistanis begin investigation

ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan — The Pakistani military has taken charge of investigations into the circumstances that allowed Osama bin Laden to reside quietly in a three-story house on the edge of town, the New York Times reported.

Military intelligence investigators returned to the house on Wednesday and spent most of the day working inside the compound, while the army and the police barred journalists and others from approaching the area.

The intelligence agencies have detained at least 11 people for questioning, including an immediate neighbor who once worked with the family, and the construction manager who built the house, Pakistani news organizations reported. They have also taken into custody the bodies of four people killed when Navy SEALs made an air-assault on the house early Monday.

According to the Times' report, Pakistani security officials said three women and nine children found in the house after the raid are also in the custody of the intelligence services. The newspaper reported that one security official said at least two are related to bin Laden: a 12- or 13-year-old daughter and his wife, who was shot in the leg but has received hospital care and is out of danger.

Afghan general blasts Pakistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Gen. Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for Afghanistan's defense ministry, criticized Pakistan's intelligence agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, which has claimed that it was unaware that bin Laden had been living for years in the military garrison town of Abbottabad.

"If the Pakistani intelligence agency does not know about a home located 10 meters or 100 meters away from its national military academy, where for the last six years the biggest terrorist is living, how can this country take care of its strategic weapons?" Azimi said. "How could they be satisfied that their strategic weapons are not in danger?"

He added that if Pakistan's intelligence did in fact know the whereabouts of bin Laden, then "they are playing a double game."

The Afghan government has said repeatedly that the roots of the insurgency are in Pakistan and that the United States has been waging war in the wrong country.

Other news of note

• Support for President Barack Obama has risen sharply following the killing of bin Laden, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. In all, 57 percent said they now approved of the president's job performance, up from 46 percent last month.

• Doctored photos purporting to show bin Laden's corpse have rocketed around the world on TV, online and in print. The pictures have spread without regard for their origin or whether the images are real. Meanwhile, scammers have piggybacked on the popularity of the images and spiked supposed online links with computer viruses.

• The Dalai Lama suggested the United States was justified in killing bin Laden. Speaking Tuesday to about 3,000 students at the University of Southern California, the 75-year-old Tibetan leader said bin Laden, as a human being, may have deserved compassion and even forgiveness. But the Los Angeles Times said the Dalai Lama added: "Forgiveness doesn't mean forget what happened." He said it is sometimes necessary to take countermeasures.

• Attorney General Eric Holder expressed serious concern about the possibility of attacks on Americans as revenge. He also predicted the terrorist watch list will be expanded based on evidence collected in the al-Qaida leader's home. Holder also said the raid was "entirely lawful and consistent with our values."

• A House panel approved $10.5 billion for Special Operations Command and its Navy SEALs unit. By voice vote, the House Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities agreed to the increase of about 7 percent from the current level.

• The construction worker from Colorado who flew last year to Pakistan on a one-man mission to hunt down bin Laden says he played a part in his death forcing bin Laden out of the mountains where he supposedly was hiding. Gary Faulkner said Wednesday he'd like one-quarter of the $25 million reward that was offered for hunting down bin Laden. He said he'd use it for his nonprofit foundation.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Experts dismiss usefulness of harsh interrogations in bin Laden hunt 05/04/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 10:39pm]
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