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Does Hannity Think He Knows More Than McCain About Torture And The Hunt For Bin Laden?

Reported by Ellen - May 17, 2011 -

As I posted last week, Senator John McCain – a man with personal and professional authority on the subject of torture – stated in both a Washington Post op-ed and on the floor of the U.S. Senate that so-called “enhanced interrogations” did not assist in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and that in fact the techniques produced “false and misleading information.” McCain also noted that harsh techniques are not only immoral and un-American but actually endanger our troops. Sean Hannity – a man who never spent a moment of his life in the military, or working in intelligence or national security – nonetheless continued to insist not only that torture played a role in finding Bin Laden but was a crucial factor. Hannity “backed up” his claim by falsely saying that CIA Director “Leon Panetta acknowledged it.”

In the Great American Panel segment on Hannity last night (5/16/11), Hannity said, “I gave credit to the president, why can’t Democrats acknowledge just the simple truth, that without enhanced interrogations, black sites and the Bush policies, this wouldn’t have happened?” When challenged on his statement, Hannity later said, “Leon Panetta acknowledged it.”

Actually, Panetta did nothing of the sort. To quote him directly, when asked by NBC’s Brian Williams to “confirm that it was as a result of waterboarding that we learned what we needed to learn to go after bin Laden,” Panetta said,

"In the intelligence business you work from a lot of sources of information, and that was true here. We had a multiple source -- a multiple series of sources -- that provided information with regards to this situation. Clearly, some of it came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees. But we also had information from other sources as well. So, it's a little difficult to say it was due just to one source of information that we got.”

In other words, he did not confirm that.

So Williams pressed further by asking, “Turned around the other way, are you denying that waterboarding was in part among the tactics used to extract the intelligence that led to this successful mission?”

No, Panetta didn’t deny it but he merely said that waterboarding was used without noting what information was obtained.

"No, I think some of the detainees clearly were, you know, they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. But I'm also saying that, you know, the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always going to be an open question."

At best – if you’re looking to credit torture – Panetta said that some information had been obtained via “enhanced interrogations.” He certainly never indicated that without waterboarding Bin Laden would not have been caught.

McCain, however, wrote in his op-ed:

I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.

Granted, Hannity is part of Fox News’ “opinion show” lineup. But where does that grant him the right to make up his own facts and ignore the real ones?

Hannity then came up with a version of the phony-baloney “ticking time bomb” scenario that in this case involved kidnappers and kids in a parking lot. From the safety of his television studio chair, Hannity talked tough about how he’d handle this most unlikely scenario. “I would do everything necessary to get that information,” he said, wagging his finger.

Sure you would. Whether you knew what would do the trick or not.

By the way, it's been more than two years since tough-guy Hannity offered to be waterboarded for charity. Has he chickened out? You can contact him at Hannity@FoxNews.com.

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