Panetta to McCain: You're Right About Waterboarding and Bin Laden

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 16 2011 1:44 PM

Panetta to McCain: You're Right About Waterboarding and Bin Laden

I'm at the American Enterprise Institute today, where John Yoo, Marc Thiessen, and Michael Mukasey are among the experts on a panel about the role of enhanced interrogation in the tracking-down and killing of Osama bin Laden. Early in the afternoon, there was a reference to a letter -- which most panelists hadn't seen -- from Leon Panetta to John McCain. Greg Sargent scoops the letter, and here's the relevant piece:

Some of the detainees who provided useful information about the facilitator/courier’s role had been subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. Whether those techniques were the "only timely and effective way" to obtain such information is a matter of debate and cannot be established definitively. What is definitive is that that information was only a part of multiple streams of intelligence that led us to Bin Ladin. 

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Let me further point out that we first learned about the facilitator/courier’s nom de guerre from a detainee not in CIA custody in 2002. It is also important to note that some detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques attempted to provide false or misleading information about the facilitator/courier. These attempts to falsify the facilitator/courier’s role were alerting.

This doesn't actually clear up the dispute, because Thiessen et al have stressed that there was a "mosaic" of facts that led to the OBL operation, and at some point, indisputably, a detainee was waterboarded.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.