Jose Rodriguez is a 31-year veteran of the CIA. During the post-9/11 years, he served as chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and later as head of the National Clandestine Service.
In today’s Washington Post, Rodriguez offers two useful reminders: (1) our high-fiving president probably would not have had the opportunity to take out Osama bin Laden last year but for “extraordinary work during the George W. Bush administration” and (2) Obama opposed key elements of that work.
According to Rodriguez, the initial breakthrough in finding bin Laden occurred when a captured terrorist revealed that bin Laden was relying on a lone courier to communicate with his organization. The captured terrorist also revealed the pseudonym of that courier. Armed with these revelations, the CIA eventually was able to discover the true identity of bin Laden’s courier, locate the courier, and, through him, track down bin Laden.
But the captured terrorist did not give up information about the courier voluntarily. He gave it up, after initially refusing to cooperate, under the duress of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (but not waterboarding). And he did so at a secret CIA prison, or “black site.”
Before becoming president, Obama criticized the use of enhanced interrogation techniques and black sites. On the second full day of his presidency, he banned such methods and ordered the black sites closed.
Would we have found bin Laden if the CIA had been forced to operate throughout the post 9/11 years under Obama’s restrictions? It’s a far more interesting question than whether Mitt Romney would have made the no-brainer decision to take out Public Enemy No. 1 once he was located.