The possibility that U.S. spies located Osama bin Laden with help from detainees who'd been subjected to "enhanced interrogation" techniques seems certain to reopen the debate over practices that many have equated with torture, security experts said on Monday.
One of the key sources for initial information about an al Qaeda "courier" who led U.S. authorities to bin Laden's Pakistani hide-out was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a man US accused of masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a former U.S. national security official said.
KSM, as he was known to U.S. officials, was subjected to "waterboarding" 183 times, the U.S. government has acknowledged.
But it was not until later, after waterboarding was suspended because it and other harsh techniques became heatedly debated, that Mohammed told interrogators about the existence of a courier particularly close to bin Laden, a fragmentary tip that ended in bin Laden's death at the hands of U.S. special forces on Sunday.
And at the time the information surfaced, the CIA had already abandoned some of its most controversial interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, in which water is poured over the face of an interrogation subject to simulate drowning, current and former U.S. officials told Reuters.
But the possibility that detainees who at some point were subjected to physical coercion later gave up information leading to bin Laden's discovery is sparking discussion among intelligence experts as to whether he could have been found without them.
"Info in 2004"
"It will reignite a debate that hasn't gone away about the morality and ethicacy of certain techniques," said Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
"Waterboarding" and other physically-coercive interrogation techniques used on detained militants, including depriving them of sleep, making them pose in uncomfortable positions, and slamming them into walls, were authorized by President George W. Bush in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
The tactics were used on detainees kidnapped by the CIA at secret prisons outside the United States.
In 2004, the CIA suspended these techniques. Subsequent revelations about agency practices led to charges the United States had engaged in torture.
But former U.S. officials told Reuters of a sequence of events that raises questions about whether the enhanced interrogation means played a significant role in bin Laden's capture.
A former U.S. counter-terrorism official who was briefed on detainee information about bin Laden and his entourage said, for instance, the CIA stopped using harsh interrogation methods on KSM after 2003.
But the first key intelligence reports identifying the al Qaeda courier reached U.S. counter-terrorism officials in 2004, according to a former U.S. national security official with direct personal knowledge.
The official said that for three years after the CIA stopped subjecting him to coercive measures, KSM continued to talk extensively. It was during this period, the official said, that he believes KSM gave up information about the courier.
A second former U.S. official said that while he did not remember which detainee gave up the key tip about the courier, he confirmed that the information came in in 2004, after the CIA had abandoned waterboarding but before it had completely stopped the use of physically stressful techniques.
This official, and two other current intelligence officials, said that in their view the main objective of the enhanced interrogation techniques was to break down resistance of detainees.
"You didn't use the techniques if they started talking," one of the officials said.
Obama Administration officials confirmed the sequence of events -- U.S. intelligence did not learn the identity of the courier until after the CIA interrogation program was terminated.
Administration officials also said it was not until August 2010 that U.S. authorities learned the location of the fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where U.S. special forces troops killed bin Laden during a commando raid on Sunday.
Le Pen, Wilders sa, 2017 will see awakening of continental Europe and put an end to supremacy of EU
Protests taking place across globe as US turnout rivals Trump inauguration crowd
With women's empowerment a key factor in shaping the future, thousands of women and men in Washington are joining hands in solidarity with sister marches around the world to promote rights for women
Defense minister sends welcome message to Turkish President ahead of his official Africa tour
An EU summit in December called for increasing support to the Libyan coast guard, which the EU began training and equipping last October.
A group of Israeli settlers were rescued by the mayor of a Palestinian village in the northern West Bank
Published moments after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, a statement on the White House website said that the US will develop a "state-of-the-art missile defense system" to defend against attacks from Iran, North Korea and others.
The meeting aims to discuss the six-year conflict in Libya, which fell into turmoil since 2011
Two men and two women were rescued alive in the the early hours of Saturday.
Earlier this month the prime minister reshuffled his cabinet to align better with the incoming US administration.
Billed as a "counter-summit", organisers of the European Nationalists have said the parties would use the event in the historic Rhine river city of Koblenz to set out their joint "vision for a Europe of freedom".
Foreign Ministry statement says Gambian people showed 'prudent stance' during political crisis
Shuwail had served as Libya’s interior minister from October 2012 to May 2013
Trump also will focus on removing hurdles to domestic energy development that he argues will make the US independent of foreign oil.
The UN Security Council last year extended the mandate of UNAMID until the end of June 2017 over fierce opposition from the government in Khartoum.
Tzipi Livni was expected in Brussels on 23 January for a conference at the European Parliament, but pulled out citing illness however was not too ill to speak to the New York branch of the Israel lobby group the Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday.