Breaking Down KSM

by Shannen W. Coffin

Some reports now claim that KSM gave up the information that led eventually — and with a lot more legwork — to the identification of bin Laden’s courier though more conventional means of interrogation, not as the direct result of enhanced interrogation techniques. Commenters below claim that this somehow undermines the argument that enhanced interrogation played some role in the eventual identification of bin Laden’s compound and his subsequent demise. But this argument is specious. When KSM was captured, he was resistant to any form of interrogation, conventional or otherwise. As our colleague Marc Thiessen learned in writing Courting Disaster, KSM’s resistance was “superhuman.” It was only after being subjected to waterboarding and other enhanced measures that he became compliant, and from that point forward, cooperated with more conventional techniques. As one of the CIA interrogators told Marc, “If we had not had these techniques, we would have gotten zero from him.” So enhanced interrogation methods played an integral role in all of the intelligence collected from him.

As I’ve said before, I still think the debate over the legality and morality of these measures is the subject of fair debate. Marc makes a compelling case in his book, but I respect those who articulate principled opposition. But the question of effectiveness has been answered, if these reports are correct. (Yes, I recognize these are anonymous sources, but this administration has every reason to deny the effectiveness of these interrogation methods, given the president’s firm position against them.) Critics are simply denying the obvious when they claim that the facts as reported render ambiguous claims of effectiveness.

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