Brian Williams: I’d like to ask you about the sourcing on the intel that ultimately led to this successful attack. Can you confirm that it was as a result of waterboarding that we learned what we needed to learn to go after Bin Laden?
Leon Panetta: You know, Brian, in the intelligence business you work from a lot of sources of information, and that was true here. We had 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.
Williams: 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?
Panetta: 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 the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always going to be an open question.
Williams: So, final point, one final time: enhanced interrogation techniques, which has always been kind of a handy euphemism in these post-9/11 years, that includes waterboarding.
Panetta: That’s correct.
As Treach writes, “Any questions?”
Just as it took the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to validate President Reagan’s approach to an earlier War on Terror, with Panetta’s interview, a big chunk of the sturm und drang of the previous decade is now officially concluded.
Speaking of which, as Investor’s Business Daily notes, “If President Bush had not invaded Iraq, President Obama likely would not have found Osama bin Laden. The al-Qaida operative who fingered bin Laden’s courier was caught in Iraq helping terrorists in 2004:”
It was a line Obama never got tired of. Most infamously, he used it during an anti-war rally at Chicago’s Federal Plaza in October 2002: “I don’t oppose all wars,” the state senator said as President Bush was preparing to attack Saddam Hussein. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war.”Obama accused “political hacks like Karl Rove” of launching the Iraq War for the purpose of distracting Americans from their economic hardships.
A decade later we know Obama was dead wrong. The successful manhunt that delivered justice from the barrel of a gun to the elusive head of al-Qaida wouldn’t have happened without an indispensable piece of the puzzle that the U.S. got because of its presence in Iraq.
One more item on Panetta, who’s had quite a interesting tour of the media this week. As Roger L. Simon notes at the Tatler, one Website claims, “White House Insider: Obama Hesitated — Panetta Issued Order to Kill Osama Bin Laden.”
Is that plausible? The Professor doesn’t think so.
But hey, in any case, as Ace quipped today, what’s 16 hours among friends?
Update: The Leon Panetta Quote Machine rolls on: “Panetta: We didn’t tell Pakistan about the raid because we thought they’d warn Bin Laden.”
Update: At Commentary, Abe Greenwald writes that “as Americans, we have, over the past two days, begun to confront our ultimate ‘You can’t handle the truth’ moment.”