No need for Torture. Did a Telephone Call to al-Qaeda in Iraq Unravel Bin Laden?

The Obama team is said to have been dismayed by the rapidity with which the national subject has switched from the death of Usama Bin Laden to the use of torture in interrogations.

The first thing to say is that Democratic leaders and the Obama administration only have themselves to blame for this torture issue still being salient. It can be deployed by the Cheney family and their surrogates only because Democratic leaders made a decision not to have anyone prosecuted for the crimes of the Bush administration. Not torture. Not warrantless domestic surveillance. Nada. If there had been prosecutions, and, better, convictions for torture, then people defending it would be defending convicted criminals,and would reveal themselves for what they are.

The second thing to say is that an Arabic source suggests that interrogations may not have been decisive in cracking the case. Al-Sharq al-Awsat, interviews Nu’man Bin Uthman, a former fighter with a Libyan terrorist group, who is reformed and now based in London, but still has good contacts among radicals.

Bin Uthman says that his sources tell him that Bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, made a key mistake when, in 2010, he used a Thurayya satellite phone to call an important al-Qaeda leader based in Iraq.

This allegation is plausible. It appears to have been 2010 when al-Kuwaiti was tracked to the house in Abbotabad by US intelligence. The US excels at signals intelligence.

It is not clear how Bin Uthman knows about the fatal 2010 telephone call, but remaining al-Qaeda leaders may have done a quick review after their leader was killed, and concluded that this mistake had led to the US raid; perhaps they are sending around their conclusion to warn others in the organization not to be so stupid.

So, interrogation may have helped confirm al-Kuwaiti’s role as courier to Bin Laden, but the phone call would have led US intelligence to begin tracking him anyway.

Torture is despicable, and that we are even having this debate shows how far we have moved from the Bill of Rights and our Constitution.

Posted in al-Qaeda | 9 Responses | Print |

9 Responses

  1. Trying Bush, Cheney, cabinet members and higher ups in the CIA for war crimes would’ve been a complete disaster for the country. Just as Obama made a wise move not to show those photos, it was the same with not going down that trail over “waterboarding” etc. This country would’ve been torn apart at the seems. Sometimes I do wonder if that’s what some of our citizens want to see. I’m against torture and wish we hadn’t done it. But trying to put the Bush administration on trial would’ve been a horrible, horrible mistake.

  2. .
    Torture IS despicable.
    In the act of torturing, the torturer denies the humanity of his victim, and thereby elevates the victim.

    As torturers take pleasure in the pain of their victims, and in their ability to inflict that pain,
    they redeem and justify their victims.

    Jesus was tortured. Accordingly, a Christian cannot torture. For a Christian to torture another human being would be to repudiate the salvation wrought through the Paschal Sacrifice.

    Oh. Torture is unAmerican.

  3. I almost lost my lunch when I saw Donald Rumsfeld on TV last night saying, first, that waterboarding isn’t torture (despite US laws defining it as such) and, second, that it’s how information on bin Laden’s courier came into the possession of interrogators.

    Besides being a liar, among other things Rumsfeld’s timeline is all wrong. Information on the courier’s workname, or code name, didn’t emerge until 2009. And, as your post indicated, it wasn’t for another year that analysts were able to begin piecing together tiny little pieces of a very complex picture that led to the courier.

    When Rumsfeld speaks, remember this is the man who was chased all over Paris for several nights by a prosecutor who wanted to detain him for questioning on torture and sextraordinary rendition. Rummy was forced to hide in the US embassy until he could be spirited secretly onto an airplane that snuck him out of France.

    Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft (now the ethics officer of the secretive paramilitary organization formerly known as Blackwater – sheesh!), Rumsfeld, Bybee, Yoo, the whole lot of them should have been investigated, charged and put on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Instead, they are free to roam freely, making totally false statements with impunity.

  4. If there had been prosecutions, and, better, convictions for torture, then people defending it would be defending convicted criminals,and would reveal themselves for what they are.

    And if there had been acquittals? Of repeated hung juries?

    And during the trials, do you imagine that the surrogates wouldn’t have been mounting even more of a full-court press to defend waterboarding?

  5. Seems to be something in the (macho, male ?) psyche that leaps, positively leaps, to the idea of the propriety of torture whenever a victim who dislikes you enough can be found. Then they argue “ticking bombs”. then they decide they don’t even need “ticking bombs”, they just love torture so much. “Oh goody, torture. Please, mommy, can I have one?”

    Obama seems no different. While one never knows who it is that LOVES torture, they evidently love it enough to scare other people (who may not love it) enough to quieten them. Obama must run an ENORMOUS BEHEMOTH MIC and cannot really afford to turn significant parts of it off. (Remember Kennedy.)

    • Obama seems no different.

      Well, except for the part where he banned torture.

      And denounced it in public.

      And doesn’t defend it.

      But, yes, other than that, he seems no different from those who defend torture.

  6. To me, calls for the use of torture always imply that the promoter of torture believes that the US is so weak, so vulnerable that we MUST IMMEDIATELY resort to this level of desperation.

    Personally, I think the US is strong enough to act like real “good guys”, and that we will survive the knocks we take as a result. 50 years from now we would be able to hold our heads high, not having to look back at years of shameful behavior.

  7. Torture means, they go down to the enemy’s level. When they destroy human dignity and humiliate them, an all consuming rage takes over. We civilians tend to think, our country’s are supposed to be above torture.

    In WW11 fourteen Canadian soldiers, were shot execution style, in the backs of their heads. The rage of the soldiers, hearing of, and seeing this atrocity, drove them to seek terrible revenge. And they did avenge the murdered soldiers.

    It’s one thing to kill in the heat of battle. But, murder and torture, is another entirely different ball game. You can count on retaliation.

  8. Torturing the enemy, means we must expect the same back.

    It reminds me of the rage the troops had, when everyone in the Fort at the Alamo were all killed by Santiago. Help came too late. The troops battle cry was, remember the Alamo, and their revenge was indeed terrible.

    The Russian army’s revenge on the German army and the German civilians, was dreadful. The Russian civilians, suffered horrific violence, by the German army. Inhuman violence begets inhuman violence.

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