When Barack Obama became president, he announced an end to the enhanced interrogations of al-Qaeda leaders at secret detention facilities that his predecessor, George W. Bush, said were essential to breaking up terror networks in the long-term.
Obama instead ramped up the targeted killing of terrorists with drone strikes, taking out many more than under Bush.
But the revelation that tips prodded from captured al-Qaeda members subjected to “enhanced interrogations” led to the capture of Osama bin Laden has ignited a debate over whether Obama should revisit the policies he cast aside.
John Yoo, the Bush White House lawyer who ruled that terror suspects were “enemy combatants” could be handled outside the criminal justice system said the United States is “losing vital intelligence opportunities if we are killing bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders when we have the opportunity to capture them.”
Michael Vietor, spokesman for Obama’s National Security Council, said the value of the enhanced interrogation techniques has been overblown.
“It’s impossible to know whether information obtained by EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques) could have been obtained by other forms of interrogation,” Vietor said. “There’s no way that information obtained by EITs was the decisive intelligence that led us directly to bin Laden.”
Other CIA operatives say the program was ineffective in the long-term.
Glenn Carle, a former CIA operations officer who interrogated a suspected al-Qaeda leader, said the Bush detainee program was “a hugely labor-intensive operation” that’s “not sustainable for a large number of people over an extended period of time.” Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was eventually found and killed without enhanced interrogation techniques, said Matthew Alexander, a retired Air Force officer and interrogator.