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Rumsfeld Tries To Recast His Comments About Waterboarding And The Killing Of Osama Bin Laden

Reported by Ellen - May 4, 2011 -

There’s been a lot of internet chatter about former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s comments to Newsmax about how “normal interrogation approaches” obtained information that led to the hunting down of Osama Bin Laden. Last night (5/4/11), Rumsfeld visited the Hannity show and, to Sean Hannity’s obvious delight, talked up “enhanced interrogation” and waterboarding. Rumsfeld did his job of singing the praises of torture and the Bush administration but he never said – and Hannity never asked – that waterboarding led directly to getting Bin Laden. That gives me a bit more respect for Rumsfeld because the facts strongly indicate that the most important intelligence was not obtained from torture.

Hannity said about the intelligence that led to Bin laden, “Let me ask you this.” But instead of a question, he announced, “I think it’s pretty clear now that discovering who this courier was through strong interrogation techniques that were employed during the Bush administration without which this day would never have occurred.”

Rumsfeld said nothing.

Hannity continued, “It seems to me we need to reignite this debate about, about enhanced interrogation techniques in this country. Is that a good idea?”

Rumsfeld agreed with that. After confirming that “one of the individuals” who had supplied information had been waterboarded, Rumsfeld added, “Anyone who suggests that the enhanced techniques – let’s be blunt, waterboarding – did not produce an enormous amount of valuable intelligence just isn’t facing the truth.” What Rumsfeld did not say is that Bin Laden would not have been found were it not for waterboarding.

So Hannity tried again. “That led to the information of the nickname of the courier… the courier’s name was found, he was eventually identified and through eavesdropping, we were able to locate him and then locate Bin Laden. But that brings up the issue of black sites, enhanced interrogation, rendition, all the things we’ve discussed. We would not have had this success.”

Rumsfeld said nothing.

Hannity went on to boast that he had praised the president’s “gutsy move” in getting Bin Laden but added, “If he had had his way, and if Democrats had his way, we wouldn’t have this intelligence.”

Rumsfeld agreed here, with Hannity's statement that “we wouldn’t have had this intelligence,” not “we would not have had this success.” He went on to agree with Hannity’s praise for the way Obama handled the killing of Bin Laden.

Then, before Hannity could interrupt, Rumsfeld addressed “some confusion… suggesting that I indicated that no one who was waterboarded at Guantanamo had provided any information on this… What I said was, ‘No one was waterboarded at Guantanamo by the U.S. military.' In fact, no one was waterboarded at Guantanamo, period. Three people were waterboarded by the CIA away from Guantanamo and then later brought to Guantanamo and, in fact, as you point out, the information that came from those individuals was critically important.”

So, let’s look at exactly what Rumsfeld had said to Newsmax:

It is true, as I understand it, that some information that came from normal interrogation approaches in Guantanamo did lead to information that was beneficial in this instance but it was not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding.

…It certainly points up the fact that the structures that President Bush put in place - military commissions, Guantanamo Bay, the Patriot Act, indefinite detention, and humane treatment, but intensive interrogation to be sure — all contributed to the success we’ve had in the global war on terror.

Contributed to the success, OK, we’ll accept that for the sake of argument, but Rumsfeld does not suggest that we have waterboarding to thank for getting Bin Laden. But then Rumsfeld made an even more telling statement to Newsmax:

We’ve always had the ability to capture or kill Obama (sic) what we didn’t have was the intelligence that was needed.

In other words, in all the years of the Bush administration, “enhanced interrogations” never obtained the needed intelligence that was obtained via normal interrogations.

Hannity, of course, overlooked that key point, overlooked the nuances of what Rumsfeld was actually claiming and went on to “ask,” “Does George W. Bush, President Bush, deserve as much credit for what happened Sunday as President Obama?”

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