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Donald Rumsfeld: Information That Led To Bin Laden Was Not Obtained Via Waterboarding

There’s been some question since Sunday of the role that waterboarding or other forms of “enhanced interrogation” may have played in obtaining the information that eventually led to the location of Osama Bin Laden. In that regard, I give you the words of Donald Rumsfeld himself:

Asked if harsh interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay played a role in obtaining intelligence on bin Laden’s whereabouts, Rumsfeld declares: “First of all, no one was waterboarded at Guantanamo Bay. That’s a myth that’s been perpetrated around the country by critics.

“The United States Department of Defense did not do waterboarding for interrogation purposes to anyone. It is true that some information that came from normal interrogation approaches at Guantanamo did lead to information that was beneficial in this instance. But it was not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding.”

I normally don’t link to Newsmax, but this is Rumsfeld speaking for himself and saying something that, if anything, would tend to rebut the meme growing on the right that the bin Laden incident vindicates waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques.

UPDATE (Dodd): In the interest of complete accuracy, as noted in the comments, Rumsfeld didn’t say none of the intel that led to Osama was obtained through waterboarding. He said none of it was obtained by waterboarding any of those people at Gitmo. Which is what he was asked. Asked a broader question later by Hannity, he said in no uncertain terms that waterboarding did indeed lead to “critically important” intel that made this possible:

UPDATE: Video replaced.

Panetta has, of course, confirmed this. The headline is simply inaccurate.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Southern Hoosier says:

    As I said elsewhere, would Rumsfeld admit to using torture and open himself to charge of being a war criminal?

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  2. An Interested Party says:

    A better question would be, can you find any proof that torture led to this outcome? Until you can, anyone who is for torture is pushing a false meme…

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  3. Southern Hoosier says:

    And can you show proof that torture was not use? The initial information was obtained under the Bush administration. Wasn’t Gitmo, under Bush refereed to as a Nazi Concentration camp? And since when did Rumsfeld become the darling of the left?

    Since you have fallen in love with Rumsfeld. I can embrace the ACLU.

    The Torture Report, an initiative of the ACLU’s National Security Project, aims to give a full account of the Bush administration’s torture program

    http://www.aclu.org/national-security/torture-report-0

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  4. Nobody is saying waterboarding didn’t occur. Rumsfeld admits that it was done in this interview (so that rebuts the point you tried to make your first comment).

    There is no evidence though that it was used in this instance. Rumsfeld says it wasn’t. Since he’s already acknowledged that it was done and said that he supported it, why would he lie in this situation?

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  5. Boyd says:

    To be clear, your headline is not what Rumsfeld said. He didn’t say that “waterboarding didn’t yield information used to find Bin Laden,” he said that DoD didn’t waterboard, hence no waterboarding at Gitmo, hence waterboarding at Gitmo didn’t help this case.

    He does not address the question of whether or not waterboarding somewhere else led to information in this case. I’m not sure if you don’t recognize the difference, Doug, or if you’re deliberately trying to mislead.

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  6. Michael says:

    Boyd is right, Rumsfeld only said they there was no waterboarding at Gitmo. He didn’t say anything about where or how the information was obtained, and he didn’t rule out it being obtained through waterboarding at a different location.

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  7. Tsar Nicholas says:

    If that’s the case then we should come up with something even more harsh and more effective than waterboarding.

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  8. Hey Norm says:

    If h2o boarding was used it doesn’t ratify torture…there’s no way to know if you couldn’t have gotten the same info in an ethical, legal manner, that wouldn’t eliminated the possibility of a trial or other proceeding.
    In any case, the minuscule kernel KSM gave up required miles and miles of leg work to make it into useful intel. I don’t agree with Lindsey Graham on much but he’s right in this instance – that’s the work to be proud of – not lowering ourselves to the level of our enemy.
    I know many of you cannot grasp that. I do pity you.

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  9. Southern Hoosier says:

    Tsar Nicholas says: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 20:19

    If that’s the case then we should come up with something even more harsh and more effective than waterboarding.

    Electrodes, works wonder and doesn’t leave marks when properly used.

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  10. mattb says:

    At the risk of over parsing, let me just mention a few things again:

    If there was ever a moment in which to “rehabilitate” enhanced interrogation techniques, this is is. Hence the work of some posters here and also recent statements by Peter King among others.

    So the question becomes, why didn’t Rummy make that choice?

    Or put a different way, why did he so explicitly answer that the information that came from Gitmo came from standard interrogation procedures?

    I have a hard time believing its out of sheer concern that he’s going to be brought up on charges (at least in the US)… that shipped sailed a long while ago.

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  11. An Interested Party says:

    And since when did Rumsfeld become the darling of the left?

    At about the same time that you fell in love with Osama Bin Laden, considering what you have had to say about his death…

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  12. Southern Hoosier says:

    @An Interested Party
    and when did I fall in love with bin Laden?

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  13. PD Shaw says:

    May want to update the post:

    Intelligence garnered from waterboarded detainees was used to track down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and kill him, CIA Chief Leon Panetta told NBC News on Tuesday.

    Link

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  14. anjin-san says:

    My country tis of thee, sweet land of torture…

    Just can’t get excited about that tune.

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  15. An Interested Party says:

    @Southern Hoosier: I was illustrating how easy it is to write silly things like, “And since when did Rumsfeld become the darling of the left?” See? Simple…

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  16. @Boyd

    We’ve already seen reports that KSM was asked about this courier that led us to bin Laden AFTER his waterboarding had ceased and that he told interrogators that the courier was “nobody important.” In other words, he lied after having been waterboarded.

    Rumsfeld said that there were no harsh interrogation techniques used in this instance.

    Those two things combined seem to under cut the right wing’s attempts to use this incident to justify torture.

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  17. @PD

    I actually watched the interview, did you?

    Panetta’s comments were far more ambiguous than that story makes them seem.

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  18. Southern Hoosier says:

    @An Interested Party
    I remember how Rumsfeld was despised by the left. I didn’t care for him either, but now that he says “Information That Led To Bin Laden Was Not Obtained Via Waterboarding,” the left is happy to accept his messages.

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  19. PD Shaw says:

    Rumsfeld agrees with Boyd’s interpretation. He clarifies that he only said that the military didn’t waterboard anybody at Gitmo; the CIA did and then brought them to Gitmo. Interview

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  20. Tommy says:

    @anjin-san

    My country tis of thee, sweet land of ass-kicking…

    I can get behind that one!

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  21. PD Shaw says:

    Doug, yes, I watched the video. Panetta’s only ambiguity is the counterfactual about whether they could have gotten intel without waterboarding. He specifically refuses to deny that information from waterboarding was used.

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  22. Boyd says:

    @Doug:

    Rumsfeld said that there were no harsh interrogation techniques used in this instance.

    I thought you would have been better at reading comprehension, being a lawyer and all that, Doug. Here’s the quote you provided:

    “The United States Department of Defense did not do waterboarding for interrogation purposes to anyone. It is true that some information that came from normal interrogation approaches at Guantanamo did lead to information that was beneficial in this instance. But it was not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding.”

    Everything he mentions is particular to the Department of Defense. He explicitly does not address anything outside of DoD, such as CIA.

    He doesn’t say what you say he said. You’re changing his words. Your claim is not factual. How can you feel that your almost-paraphrase accurately portrays what he said, when it clearly doesn’t, which is obvious to even a dumb ol’ hick like me?

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  23. @Boyd

    And since it seems that KSM wasn’t even asked about this courier until after he’d already been transfered to GItmo, that would seem to confirm it no?

    Also, there’s this from a NY Times piece just posted tonight::

    But a closer look at prisoner interrogations suggests that the harsh techniques played a small role at most in identifying Bin Laden’s trusted courier and exposing his hide-out. One detainee who apparently was subjected to some tough treatment provided a crucial description of the courier, according to current and former officials briefed on the interrogations. But two prisoners who underwent some of the harshest treatment — including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times — repeatedly misled their interrogators about the courier’s identity.

    Even after being subjected to waterboarding in the past, KSM still lied. That seems to suggest that the right wing argument that waterboarding “worked” in this instance isn’t true.

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  24. @PD

    He specifically refuses to deny that information from waterboarding was used.

    He also specifically refuses to confirm it.

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  25. Boyd says:

    Doug, you can tie together all the threads from whatever sources you want, and you may be accurate that waterboarding wasn’t used to develop any information used in this case. But the fact remains: Donald Rumsfeld did not say “Information That Led To Bin Laden Was Not Obtained Via Waterboarding.

    Your headline is not accurate. Rumsfeld did not say what you say he said. You are putting words in his mouth.

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  26. Well then he has to talk to Newsmax and the others who linked to that article that led me to it. I listened to the interview, I think it’s a fair extrapolation of what he said.

    Besides, the burden is on the proponents of torture to prove (1) that it works and (2) that it is morally and legally acceptable

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  27. anjin-san says:

    My country tis of thee, sweet land of ass-kicking…

    Torturing someone who is strapped down is not “ass-kicking”. In fact, we executed some Japanese for doing it to our guys in WW2.

    If you want to do some ass kicking, I am sure there is a recruiting station in your town. We are involved in several shooting wars, I am sure you will get your chance. At the moment, you are just someone talking tough on a blog.

    And yes, we are very good at war. A good thing too, as we live in a violent world. But it’s nothing to cheer about, it’s not a football game. Shoot one of our guys, and they die just like anyone else. Perhaps when you are a little older you will understand this.

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  28. Boyd says:

    So, you think it’s fair to “extrapolate” to say Rumsfeld said something he didn’t say.

    Wow.

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  29. Michael says:

    Well then he has to talk to Newsmax and the others who linked to that article that led me to it.

    This is the part where you realize that there was a good reason why you “normally don’t link to Newsmax”.

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  30. I think given the fact that KSM was already at Gitmo when they asked him about this courier and that he was one of only two people who were waterboarded makes it a completely fair extrapolation

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  31. Hey Norm says:

    Doug,
    Proof that torture works? They waterboarded KSM 183 times and they got a pseudonym out of him which then took 4 or 5 years to run to ground. I’d say thats proof it works just dandy. Almost the perfect ticking time-bomb scenario…if your ticking time-bomb has a 5 year fuse.

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  32. Norm,

    You got a link for that because every story I’ve read says that KSM lied when they asked him about the courier.

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  33. Hey Norm says:

    Good point. That ticking time-bomb scenario…BOOM!!!

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  34. [...] http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/don…waterboarding/ Whats you point here? Quote: [...]

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  35. [...] Posted by Osiris Faction http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/don…waterboarding/ Whats you point here? So…waterboarding had nothing to do with this. And the information they [...]

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  36. TG Chicago says:

    @Tsar:

    If that’s the case then we should come up with something even more harsh and more effective than waterboarding.

    Are you more interested in something harsh or something effective? Often harsh treatment is not effective, as we see here.

    I suspect you’re mostly interested in something harsh.

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  37. jwest says:

    Boyd,

    Doug has never let truth or accuracy stand in the way of publishing a headline as he wishes it would read. James doesn’t seem to mind him debasing the site, so it’s good that people like you research and provide facts that readers can rely on.

    Keep exposing the lies – you’re one of the good guys.

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  38. Jwest,

    Why don’t you send me the link to a single story that says that any of the information that led to bin Laden was obtained via waterboarding.

    Actually, don’t bother. Because there’ isn’t one.

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  39. jwest says:

    Doug,

    No need rearguing what Boyd so perfectly explained.

    Your headline is a crock. This isn’t a one-time slip, you do it all the time. Hopefully, each time you do, one of us will be there to call you on it.

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  40. [...] to this debate are the comments that Donald Rumsfeld made yesterday, which he appeared to walk back during a Fox News appearance last night, and these comments from CIA [...]

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  41. Susan Wood says:

    Sorry, but I don’t buy any of Rumsfeld’s claims, because the one huge and obvious whopper in the middle of it negates everything else. We didn’t waterboard people at Gitmo? The hell we didn’t! Is there any other possible explanation for the three deaths that were clumsily passed off as “suicides?” We know, thanks to the army’s own autopsy report (even though heavily redacted) that the men did not die from hanging, they died from asphyxiation because of rags lodged in their throats. Is there any explanation for how those rags could have gotten there other than the final, desperate gasp for air of drowning men? We waterboarded people at Gitmo, in addition to a great many other brutal practices.

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  42. Boyd says:

    As you linked in your later post on torture, Doug, Rumsfeld repeated his statements on Hannity’s show last night:

    I’m told there was some confusion today on some programs, even one on Fox, I think, suggesting that I indicated that no one was who was waterboarded at Guantanamo, provided any information on this. That’s just not true. 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.

    And despite the fact that this in no way contradicts what he had said in his earlier quote that you included in this post, you mischaracterize it as “he appeared to walk back during a Fox News appearance last night.” That’s dishonest, Doug. It matches up exactly with his earlier statement.

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  43. [...] тоже очень хорош, учитывая, что Рамсфельд сказал на самом деле. (Тут дополнительный штрих – сравнение заголовка с [...]

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  44. Dodd says:

    Why don’t you send me the link to a single story that says that any of the information that led to bin Laden was obtained via waterboarding.

    Actually, don’t bother. Because there’ isn’t one.

    I took care of that for you.

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  45. 16 hours says:

    [...] full updated context in which Rumsfeld says that intell that lead to OBL came from waterboarding. Donald Rumsfeld: Information That Led To Bin Laden Was Not Obtained Via Waterboarding Now, what was that you were sying? Reply With [...]

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  46. Tom says:

    Under Bush’s enhanced interrogation policies we failed to bring OBL to justice for SEVEN years! This in itself proves beyond any doubt that these polices were terrible, not to mention un-American. Starting in 2006 the Bush administration instituted a policy that put more CIA folks on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is this policy (that Obama has continued) that eventually led to the courrier’s true identity. It was good, old fashioned (and legal) intelligence and detective work that led to OBL’s demise. Both the Bush and Obama administrations deserve credit. The enhanced interrogations were tried and failed – even the Bush administration largely abandonned them by 2006. Advise to the right-wingers: stop digging! The facts are against you – admit the mistake and move on. Do you really want to be pushing policies that would have our founding fathers spinning in their graves?

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  47. [...] The killing of Osama bin Laden has, as The New York Times notes, reignited the debate over “brutal interrogations” — by which it’s meant that Republicans are now attempting to exploit the emotions generated by the killing to retroactively justify the torture regime they implemented. The factual assertions on which this attempt is based — that waterboarding and other “harsh interrogation methods” produced evidence crucial to locating bin Laden — are dubious in the extreme, for reasons Andrew Sullivan and Marcy Wheeler document. So fictitious are these claims that even Donald Rumsfeld has repudiated them. [...]

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