No, Bin Laden's Death Does NOT Justify Torture → Washingtons Blog
No, Bin Laden's Death Does NOT Justify Torture - Washingtons Blog

Monday, May 2, 2011

No, Bin Laden's Death Does NOT Justify Torture

There's a new meme widely circulating today claiming that torture was okay after all, because it helped us locate and kill Bin Laden. See this, this, this and this.

As ABC News notes:

The revelation that intelligence gleaned from the CIA's so-called black sites helped kill bin Laden was seen as vindication for many intelligence officials who have been repeatedly investigated and criticized for their involvement in a program that involved the harshest interrogation methods in U.S. history.

"We got beat up for it, but those efforts led to this great day," said Marty Martin, a retired CIA officer who for years led the hunt for bin Laden.

But as ABC notes in the next paragraph:

Mohammed did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He identified them many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.

Reuters points out:

But the possibility that detainees who at some point were subjected to physical coercion later gave up information leading to bin Laden's discovery is sparking discussion among intelligence experts as to whether he could have been found without them.

"It will reignite a debate that hasn't gone away about the morality and ethicacy of certain techniques," said Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

In reality, top interrogation experts (both conservative and liberal) agree that torture is an ineffective interrogation method which leads to false, unusable information:

Moreover, the type of torture used since 9/11 was a special type of torture specifically aimed at creating false confessions:

And see this.

Moreover, as I noted yesterday, we didn't need to torture anyone to catch Bin Laden:

According to the U.S. Senate - Bin Laden was "within the grasp" of the U.S. military in Afghanistan in December 2001, but that then-secretary of defense Rumsfeld refused to provide the soldiers necessary to capture him.

This is not news: it was disclosed in 2005 by the CIA field commander for the area in Afghanistan where Bin Laden was holed up.

In addition, French soldiers allegedly say that they easily could have captured or killed Bin Laden in Afghanistan, but that the American commanders stopped them.


A retired Colonel and Fox News military analyst said that the U.S. could have killed Bin Laden in 2007, but didn't:

We know, with a 70 percent level of certainty — which is huge in the world of intelligence — that in August of 2007, bin Laden was in a convoy headed south from Tora Bora. We had his butt, on camera, on satellite. We were listening to his conversations. We had the world’s best hunters/killers — Seal Team 6 [Note: this is the exact same team that is credited with killing Bin Laden yesterday] — nearby. We had the world class Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) coordinating with the CIA and other agencies. We had unmanned drones overhead with missiles on their wings; we had the best Air Force on the planet, begging to drop one on the terrorist. We had him in our sights; we had done it ....Unbelievably, and in my opinion, criminally, we did not kill Usama bin Laden.
Indeed, a United States Congressman claims that the Bush administration intentionally let Bin Laden escape in order to justify the Iraq war.
Moreover, as I've previously noted, capturing Bin Laden and taking down Al Qaeda was never the real priority:
American historian, investigative journalist and policy analyst Gareth Porter writes in the Asia Times:
Three weeks after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld established an official military objective of not only removing the Saddam Hussein regime by force but overturning the regime in Iran, as well as in Syria and four other countries in the Middle East, according to a document quoted extensively in then-under secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith's recently published account of the Iraq war decisions. Feith's account further indicates that this aggressive aim of remaking the map of the Middle East by military force and the threat of force was supported explicitly by the country's top military leaders.
Feith's book, War and Decision, released last month, provides excerpts of the paper Rumsfeld sent to President George W Bush on September 30, 2001, calling for the administration to focus not on taking down Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network but on the aim of establishing "new regimes" in a series of states...
General Wesley Clark, who commanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing campaign in the Kosovo war, recalls in his 2003 book Winning Modern Wars being told by a friend in the Pentagon in November 2001 that the list of states that Rumsfeld and deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz wanted to take down included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan and Somalia [and Lebanon].
When this writer asked Feith . . . which of the six regimes on the Clark list were included in the Rumsfeld paper, he replied, "All of them." [See this public speech by Clark on the genesis of the Iraq war]
The Defense Department guidance document made it clear that US military aims in regard to those states would go well beyond any ties to terrorism. The document said the Defense Department would also seek to isolate and weaken those states and to "disrupt, damage or destroy" their military capacities - not necessarily limited to weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Indeed, the goal seems to have more to do with being a superpower (i.e. an empire) than stopping terrorism.

As Porter writes:


A senior officer on the Joint Staff told State Department counter-terrorism director Sheehan he had heard terrorist strikes characterized more than once by colleagues as a "small price to pay for being a superpower".
If we had really wanted to get Bin Laden, we would have gotten him in 2001 (indeed, the Taliban offered to turn him over), or 2007.

But we had "more important" things to do. Specifically, U.S. foreign policy was focused on regime change in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, and in strategic interests not directly related to terrorism.

Postscript: Experts say that torture is unnecessary even to prevent "ticking time bombs" from exploding (see this, this and this). Indeed, a top expert says that torture would fail in a real 'ticking time-bomb' situation.

And, yes ... waterboarding is torture:
  • Everyone claiming waterboarding is not torture has changed their tune as soon as they were exposed to even a small dose of it themselves. See this, this and this
But it wasn't just waterboarding:


  1. Must watch video on Fairewinds

  2. thanks for posting this commentary. as a criminal defense attorney, this has been the scariest part of the story for me. not that they need to rationalize what they do, because they'll do it anyway. more from gareth porter on sending us/nato detainees to torture sites:

  3. Pay no attention to man behind the curtain.

    Let's be smart about all of this, shall we? And conscious.

  4. The CIA"S tactics or methods of torture that it seems so many Americans are against. Unbeknownst to them that these terrorist are trained not to break and they will share no information by having a friendly or society approved interrogation. So, the methods use by America's appointed professionals is a result of the capture and death of the number 1 terrorist. But, again this comment will be criticized, and I will accept that. The reason for this acceptance is because most individuals criticizing our Country's methods that led to Osama's demise have factor out that there are over 7,000 innocent Americans who will; never accomplish purchasing the home or car they were saving for. Or going out on a date that would have lead to more positive and productive Americans. These Americans will have never accomplish their dreams. And finally for the critics, we understand that you can relate to this comment because a terrorist has not killed one of your loved ones...yet.

  5. WE know Manning is guilty as BHO said so!

    Who needs a trial? OBL was identified as the culprit within hours. The USA does not even need an investigation!

    This may end badly ...... !

  6. I do agree, nothing justifies torture and death... I am shocked at the reaction and applause of most democratic countries. I recommend you to read also this short post about bin laden's death and other extrajudicial killings:


→ Thank you for contributing to the conversation by commenting. We try to read all of the comments (but don't always have the time).

→ If you write a long comment, please use paragraph breaks. Otherwise, no one will read it. Many people still won't read it, so shorter is usually better (but it's your choice).

→ The following types of comments will be deleted if we happen to see them:

-- Comments that criticize any class of people as a whole, especially when based on an attribute they don't have control over

-- Comments that explicitly call for violence

→ Because we do not read all of the comments, I am not responsible for any unlawful or distasteful comments.