Former CIA clandestine service chief Jose Rodriguez’s torture tour was in full swing on Wednesday, with an op-ed in the Washington Post asserting that the name of the courier who unknowingly led the CIA to Osama bin Laden’s hideout was pried from the tattered mind of a black site detainee through the use of Bush-era torturous interrogation:
In 2004, an al-Qaeda terrorist was captured trying to communicate with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the terror organization’s operations in Iraq. That captured terrorist was taken to a secret CIA prison — or “black site” — where, initially, he was uncooperative. After being subjected to some “enhanced interrogation techniques”— techniques authorized by officials at the most senior levels of the U.S. government and that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel confirmed were consistent with U.S. law — the detainee became compliant. He was not one of the three al-Qaeda operatives who underwent waterboarding, the harshest of the hard measures.
Once this terrorist decided that non-cooperation was a non-starter, he told us many things — including that bin Laden had given up communicating via telephone, radio or Internet, and depended solely on a single courier who went by “Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.”
Case closed, right? According to Rodriguez, torture—which he apparently considers a manly pursuit—works. There’s only one problem here: Rodriguez’ story directly contradicts what the former head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, has said about how the bin Laden courier’s name was discovered.
In May of last year, just after bin Laden was killed, the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent obtained a letter sent to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) from then-CIA Director Leon Panetta. The letter clearly states that “we first learned about the facilitator/courier’s nom de guerre from a detainee not in CIA custody in 2002,” and that “no detainee in CIA custody revealed the facilitator/courier’s full true name or specific whereabouts.” Panetta’s version of events is bolstered by a letter released by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) earlier this week, which stated, “The original lead information had no connection to CIA detainees.” Feinstein and Levin noted a third detainee in CIA custody did provide information on the courier, but “he did so the day before he was interrogated by the CIA using their coercive interrogation techniques.”
This directly contradicts Rodriguez’s account, which is that the CIA learned of the courier’s identity from a detainee in CIA custody via torture.
For the moment, it comes down to whom you believe: The two Senators and the Obama administration’s former intelligence chief or the guy who went out of his way to destroy evidence of CIA torture in direct violation of a judge’s order. He has since been rewarded with a book deal and fawning media tour. Fortunately, Feinstein, as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has been leading an inquiry into the use of Bush era so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which means sooner or later the truth may come out.