Suppose we're classifying the controversial Bush administration "harsh interrogation" practices at Guantanamo as "torture." Now: what if that torture led to the U.S. finding Osama bin Laden and taking him out of the picture forever? Given the news that the crucial information on bin Laden's courier--the man who unwittingly led the U.S. to bin Laden's compound--came from Guantanamo Bay detainees, commentators at home and abroad are revisiting the Guantanamo debate. Does the extra-legal detention now look like a good idea? How about the waterboarding? Here are the details of the case, and how they are being used to support arguments in both directions.
The Tricky Details: What Happened
Already, there are big discrepancies in reports of how the U.S. identified bin Laden's courier. Which report you read may make a big difference in whether your feelings about Guantanamo interrogation have shifted by the end of the article. The New York Times says merely that it was post-2002 and that it involved matching information from detainees in secret prisons with the denials of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others (who were in Guantanamo):
It wasn't until after 2002, when the agency began rounding up Qaeda operatives — and subjecting them to hours of brutal interrogation sessions in secret overseas prisons — that they finally began filling in the gaps about the foot soldiers, couriers and money men Bin Laden relied on.
Prisoners in American custody told stories of a trusted courier. When the Americans ran the man's pseudonym past two top-level detainees — the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed; and Al Qaeda’s operational chief, Abu Faraj al-Libi — the men claimed never to have heard his name. That raised suspicions among interrogators that the two detainees were lying and that the courier probably was an important figure.
Meanwhile, The Telegraph's Tim Ross said it was KSM, not others, who let the courier's identity slip, while "a second source--also an al-Qaeda 'leader' held at Guantanamo Bay--then confirmed the courier's identity." This second source, if matched up to WikiLeaks documents, looks to be Abu Faraj al-Libi, which The Times also mentions. Both KSM and al-Libi were, Ross points out, "subjected to harsh techniques during their interrogations in CIA prisons."