Osama Bin Laden's death: Dianne Feinstein, Lindsey Graham, Peter King and other members of Congress use it to reiterate…

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
May 3 2011 7:41 PM

The New New Normal

How members of Congress are using the Osama Bin Laden killing to prove they've been right all along about [insert issue here].

Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Click image to expand.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein

The killing of Osama Bin Laden has done something miraculous: It has proved everyone in Washington right. Did you think the war in Afghanistan was a waste of effort, or did you think it was the right war at the right time? Did you defend George W. Bush's interrogation policies, or did you raise a glass when Barack Obama ended them? Whatever you were saying, you were dead on. Take two examples from the past 24 hours.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

"This idea—we caught Bin Laden because of waterboarding—I think is a misstatement," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to reporters on Tuesday. "This whole concept of how we caught Bin Laden is a lot of work over time by different people, and putting a puzzle together." He emphasized it again. "I do not believe this is a time to celebrate waterboarding. I believe this is a time to celebrate hard work."


This was not what Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., had been saying a day earlier.

"We obtained that information through waterboarding," the chairman of the House Homeland Security told Bill O'Reilly. "So for those who say that waterboarding doesn't work, who say it should be stopped and never used again, we got vital information which directly led us to Bin Laden."

Washington has just seen Obama approve a successful, extra-sovereign hit on the head of al-Qaida. What does that do to two years—more than that, if you go back to the campaign—of the hawks' consensus that Obama's feckless war-on-terror strategy can't possibly work? How does it change the way the war on terror is conducted? The capture of Bin Laden is a rare thing: an event that inspires victory celebrations in the streets, without the sort of changes that usually come after a victory.

Start with waterboarding and "enhanced interrogations." Supporters of the old Bush policy started spinning the Bin Laden capture as a validation pretty soon after the news broke. "It's an enhanced interrogation program that we put in place back in our first term," former Vice President Dick Cheney told ABC News. "It wouldn't be surprising if in fact that program produced results that ultimately contributed to the success of this venture." And on Tuesday night, pressed by Brian Williams, Leon Panetta confirmed that some of the information that led to Bin Laden—a manhunt that stretched over a decade—was gleaned from "enhanced interrogation techniques."

How might this have worked? On March 1, 2003, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was captured. He was interrogated, but according to a report declassified in 2009, he was a fount of mostly useless information until he was broken by 183 waterboardings and more than a week of sleep deprivation. After that, he was pliable. And according to the Associated Press, it was KSM who provided the nickname that eventually allowed the United States to locate Osama Bin Laden's courier.

Did the information come because KSM was waterboarded, or could you say that KSM was waterboarded at one point in time, and he provided key information at another point in time? There's just enough fog there to allow everyone to walk out of this with a fact he or she likes. On Tuesday, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein repeatedly told reporters that the information that led to Bin Laden did not come from enhanced interrogation. "I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted," said Feinstein. "And in my mind, nothing justifies the procedures that were used."


The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

Should the United States Grant Asylum to Victims of Domestic Violence?

The Apple Watch Will Make Everyone Around You Just a Little Worse Off

This Was the First Object Ever Designed

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 


How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest jewels.


A Little Bit Softer Now, a Little Bit Softer Now …

The sad, gradual decline of the fade-out in popular music.

Is Everyone Going to Declare Independence if Scotland Does It? 

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Trending News Channel
Sept. 12 2014 11:26 AM Identical Twins Aren’t Really Identical
  News & Politics
Sept. 12 2014 7:24 PM Come and Take It Libertarians fight for people whose property was seized by the police.
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
Sept. 12 2014 3:32 PM Yes, Those Straight Guys Who Wed for Rugby Tickets Are Mocking Marriage. What’s New?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
Brow Beat
Sept. 14 2014 7:10 PM Watch Michael Winslow Perform Every Part of “Whole Lotta Love” With Just His Voice
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?