Yesterday, Senator John McCain took a stand (well, two stands) against Bush-era executives who defended that president's policy on "enhanced interrogations" and claimed that the procedures turned up the nickname of the courier who was housing Osama bin Laden. Specifically, he targeted former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who had said that Guantánamo detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — who was waterboarded 183 times — coughed up the nickname Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. McCain, in an editorial and speech on the Senate floor, quoted CIA director Leon Panetta as saying that KSM did not reveal the name — before, after, or during "enhanced interrogations." Mukasey today disputes this.
In a statement bashing McCain, Mukasey claims:
KSM disclosed the nickname — al Kuwaiti — along with a wealth of other information, some of which was used to stop terror plots then in progress. He did so after refusing to answer questions and, when asked if further plots were afoot, said that his interrogators would eventually find out. Another detainee, captured in Iraq, disclosed that al Kuwaiti was a trusted operative of KSM’s successor, abu Faraj al-Libbi. When al-Libbi went so far as to deny even knowing the man, his importance became obvious.
It's a little hard to follow with all this finger-pointing, but it seems as though even if KSM did say Kuwaiti's name, other people who talked about Kuwaiti really led the CIA to his and bin Laden's hiding place. This is a key distinction — it gets to the heart of whether or not extreme duress (what some call torture) is effective in information-gathering. However, obviously, as mere readers of this saga we have very little idea of what's true. It's hard to tell what's more unsettling — that the major players who should have an idea don't seem to or that at least one of the major players is out-and-out lying to the American public.