The trail to bin Laden

The Journal Editorial Report on Fox News led off with an interview of former Attorney General Michael Mukasey this past weekend. The transcript is here; the video is below. Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot questioned Judge Mukasey about President Obama’s proclamation of the credit he is due for the death of bin Laden, a subject Judge Mukasey had addressed in his excellent Wall Street Journal column.

Gigot then turned to the the long trail of intelligence behind the bin Laden operation. This question was originally discussed in the immediate aftermath of the operation by then CIA Director Leon Panetta. Here was Gigot’s opening question to Judge Mukasey on this subject along with his pointed answer, based on this April 30 statement by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin:

GIGOT: OK. Let me talk to you about another issue. There was — that has come up in the news this week, which is the — what happened with the intelligence leading to the bin Laden capture. There’s a suggestion by two Democratic Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, that enhanced interrogation techniques, waterboarding and such, did not lead to — did not produce evidence that led to the bin Laden capture. They put it this way, “The CIA learned of the existence of the courier, his true name and location, through means unrelated to the CIA detention and interrogation program.” Based on what you knew — learned when you were attorney general, is this correct?

MUKASEY: That is a half tru[th] designed to irritate anyone who knows the other half.

Judge Mukasey elaborated as follows:

Yes, the CIA knew about the name before it was disclosed by Sheikh Mohammed. However, that information lay unexploited because it came from an insignificant course. When it came from Sheikh Mohammed after he was subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, they followed it up and found this guy was still active. They went back to Sheikh Mohammed, who by then had his wits about him, and asked him again about this guy and he said, oh, he has been out of it for some time. That was a lie. They knew it was a lie. And because he had lied about it, that enhanced even more the significance of the information. So the information did not become significant until they learned about it from him and its significance was increased by the fact that he lied about it. They learned about it after enhanced interrogation techniques.

Here is the rest of the exchange:

GIGOT: So based on your experience, you think the enhanced interrogation techniques have absolutely been critical to the progress we have made against Al Qaeda?

MUKASEY: There were three people subjected to all — all the fuss is about three people subjected to the most extreme form of interrogation.

GIGOT: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.


GIGOT: Abu Zubaydah.

MUKASEY: Abu Zubaydah and Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, the architect of the Cole attempt.

GIGOT: Right.

MUKASEY: We got troves of information from all three. We arrested Hambali, Ramzi bin Al Shibh, a whole array, a whole rogues gallery of terrorists who were prepared to carry off attacks. Mike McConnell, the director of —


GIGOT: Former national director of intelligence.

MUKASEY: Correct. Said that there are people walking around today who would not be walking around today if those techniques had not been used.

As long as we’re on the subject, I don’t recall President Obama extending any credit to the Bush administration for its role in the policies and practices that led to the discovery of bin Laden’s location. Why is that?

Let’s go to the videotape.