World

Torture didn't provide clues to bin Laden: McCain

Waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques were not a factor in tracking down Osama bin Laden, U.S. Senator John McCain claims.

Pakistan's ex-intelligence chief chides U.S. for Navy SEAL raid

U.S. Senator John McCain speaks at the 41st Washington Conference on the Americas Wednesday at the State Department in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques were not a factor in tracking down Osama bin Laden, U.S. Senator John McCain claimed the same day Pakistan's former intelligence chief criticized the Navy SEAL raid that led to the al-Qaeda leader's death.

The Republican, who spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, also rejected the argument that any form of torture is critical to U.S. success in the fight against terrorism.

In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor Thursday, the former presidential hopeful said former attorney general Michael Mukasey and others who back those tactics were wrong to claim that waterboarding al-Qaeda's No. 3 leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, provided information that led to bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.

'Not only did the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden's courier, Abu Ahmed, it actually produced false and misleading information.'—John McCain, U.S. senator

McCain is the top Republican on the Senate armed services committee, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who consistently challenged the Bush administration and former vice-president Dick Cheney on the use of torture and a man who endured brutal treatment during the Vietnam War.

He also made many of his points in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

McCain said he asked CIA director Leon Panetta for the facts, and that the hunt for bin Laden did not begin with fresh information from Mohammed. In fact, the name of bin Laden's courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, came from a detainee held in another country.

"Not only did the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden's courier, Abu Ahmed, it actually produced false and misleading information," McCain said.

He called on Mukasey and others to correct their misstatements.

In a statement, Mukasey said McCain "is simply incorrect," about the bin Laden leads and interrogation.

Mukasey said Mohammed disclosed the nickname of the courier "along with a wealth of other information, some of which was used to stop terror plots then in progress." He said another detainee, captured in Iraq, disclosed that the courier was a trusted operative of Mohammed's successor.

Mukasey, who was former president George W. Bush's last attorney general, said former intelligence officials have said that up to 2006 valuable leads came from prisoners who were subjected to harsh techniques, including waterboarding.

"Harsh interrogation techniques were both effective and lawful," Mukasey said.

Last week, Representative Peter King, the Republican chairman of the House homeland security committee, said the U.S. got vital information from waterboarding that led directly to bin Laden.

McCain said he opposes waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning, and any form of torture tactics. He said that they could be used against Americans and that their use damages the nation's character and reputation.

Pressure on Pakistan

Also on Thursday, Pakistan's former intelligence chief chided the U.S. for not sharing information about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts and challenged American intelligence officials to name one time when co-operating led to a botched operation.

Pakistani's former intelligence chief Gen. Ehsan ul-Haq, left, shares a light moment in Singapore with his U.S. counterpart in 2006. Haq chided the U.S. Thursday for being secretive about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. ((Associated Press))

Pakistan is facing ongoing pressure from inside the country and abroad to explain why Pakistani intelligence didn't know that bin Laden was hiding in their country and whether some Pakistani officials knew and protected him.

Speaking at a think-tank in Paris, Ret. Gen. Ehsan ul Haq, who headed the Pakistani intelligence agency from late 2001 to 2004, said Pakistan has handed over senior al-Qaeda operatives, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — the planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — Abu Zubayda and Ramzi Binalshib.

Information obtained from the three helped develop a wealth of data about al-Qaeda, which ultimately led the U.S. to find bin Laden, Haq said.

He was pointedly asked how Pakistani officials couldn't have known bin Laden was in the country.

"How is it possible that he was sitting there and nobody knew? Well, it is possible," Haq said. "For those who do intelligence work, they will tell you that it's possible."

Then he chided the U.S. for not sharing intelligence about bin Laden's whereabouts.

"It should have been a joint operation, it would have been a success story," Haq said, adding that it would have strengthened co-operation between U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials instead of dampening relations.

In Abbottabad, a garrison town in northwest Pakistan where the May 2 raid by U.S. Navy SEALs killed the leader of the al-Qaeda terror network, about 300 members of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's party rallied Thursday in the main bazaar, denouncing both the American government for approving the raid and Pakistani leaders.

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