Waterboarding helped find Osama bin Laden: CIA chief

CIA director Leon Panetta has spoken for the first time about the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, confirming some of the intelligence leading up to it came from detainees who had been waterboarded.

United States president Barack Obama banned the controversial torture technique, which simulates drowning, in 2009.

But the head of American intelligence networks has now credited the torture technique with helping find the Al Qaeda mastermind.

“They used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees,” Mr Panetta said.

“But I’m also saying that the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always going to be an open question.”

Mr Panetta also said killing bin Laden was the operation’s goal.

“The authorities we have on bin Laden are to kill him and that was made clear,” he said.

“But it was also as part of their rules of engagement, if he suddenly put up his hands and offered to be captured, then they would have the opportunity obviously to capture him, but that opportunity never developed.”

Debate is still stirring about the release a photo of bin Laden, despite Mr Panetta declaring it would happen.

The CIA has said the picture should be made public to dispel any conspiracy theories surrounding the Al Qaeda leader’s death.

But the White House says it fears releasing the photo of bin Laden’s body could be inflammatory.

Extremists groups including the Afghan Taliban say they will not accept that bin Laden is dead until they see proof.

In the end, the decision is with President Obama.

But senior Republican Peter King says it would help to release the photos.

“I don’t want a conspiracy theory developing and suddenly he’s spotted walking through Singapore or something,” he said.

Changing story

Mr Panetta says Pakistan was deliberately kept in the dark with the operation for fears information would be leaked and the mission jeopardised.

Senior members of Congress are raising questions about the future of the US relationship with Pakistan, including the financial support for the Pakistani military.

They are expressing alarm that bin Laden was able to live in a compound so close to a military academy and less than half-an-hour from the Pakistani capital when Pakistan was meant to be an ally in tracking him down.

Today, the US Senate temporarily put politics aside and voted unanimously to honour the military and intelligence teams involved in finding bin Laden.

“We wouldn’t recognise him if we passed him on the street today and that’s exactly how they would want it,” majority leader Harry Reid said.

“This is the newest proud page and long story of the American hero.

“The unknown soldiers, the unsung saviours who sacrificed for our country’s flag and their countrymen’s freedom.”

But the story of what those teams did and what they found has changed.

The White House has now revealed that bin Laden was unarmed, but spokesman Jay Carney says the US forces met resistance throughout.

Counter-terrorism chief John Brennan had said bin Laden’s wife was used as a human shield.

But Mr Carney offered these details today:

“In the room with bin Laden, a woman, bin Laden’s – a woman rather, bin Laden’s wife, rushed the US assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed,” he said.

“Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.”

Reporters also pressed Mr Carney for the official White House assessment on Pakistan relations.

“It’s a complicated but important relationship,” he said.

“Pakistan is a partner, a key partner in the fight against Al Qaeda and terrorism. They have been extremely helpful and we look forward to cooperating into the future.”

But politicians on Capitol Hill were questioning the billions of dollars in aid given to Pakistan every year.

Mr King, the house homeland security committee chairman, says he has spoken with Pakistani officials in the US.

“This relationship now has changed. They are at a crossroad,” he said.

“You can’t be coming to Congress and asking for $3 billion after this, after what happened, and expect to get it without serious, serious questions being asked and the relationship being reanalysed.”

Political analysts were called to committee hearings to give their views on what comes next.

Frederick Kagan, from the American Enterprise Institute, was taking a dim view of what the future might hold.

“Things don’t go well for us when we simply decide to treat Pakistan as an enemy,” he said.

“I think we’re a long way from trust with Pakistan.

“I think it’s going to be a long time before they trust us or we trust them given the history of our relationship.”

The Atlantic Council’s spokesman, Shuja Nawaz, told the congressional members that Pakistan is a demographic time bomb, a magnet and a haven for terrorists.

“It has an internal conflict, a weaponised society and a sagging economy and a defunct educational system that is not preparing its youth adequately for the 21st century,” he said.

“The killing of Osama bin Laden will not alter these underlying conditions that spawn terrorism.

“But it is an inflection point that could help us change the relationship with Pakistan perhaps for the better.”

ABC News

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