When I visited Guantánamo Bay on the eve of President Barack Obama's inauguration, two things seemed certain: that the hated prison would soon be shuttered and that it would go down in history as one of America's worst follies.
Two years later, the camp is still running strong and Osama bin Laden is dead thanks entirely to intelligence gleaned by Gitmo's much-maligned interrogators. Does that mean -- gulp -- Gitmo has actually been worth all the trouble?
Conservative blogs such as Red State are already pounding the drum that bin Laden's death "proves" that waterboarding and other torture tactics inside Gitmo were justified. If Fox News hasn't run a "Gitmo Vindicated!" graphic yet, it's only a matter of time.
There's no doubt that Gitmo detainees played a key role in bringing bin Laden down.
The noose apparently began closing around America's most-wanted man in 2007, when interrogators at Guantánamo learned the pseudonym used by one of bin Laden's most trusted couriers.
"Detainees gave us his nom de guerre, or his nickname, and identified him as both a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of September 11th, and a trusted assistant of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the former number three of Al-Qaeda who was captured in 2005," a senior official told Politico today.
No one has said who exactly spilled the beans down in Gitmo, but speculation is heavy today that it was Abu Faraj al-Libbi himself -- the top lieutenant held at the Cuban base since 2005.
Either way, the courier's nickname was the key piece of the puzzle to finding bin Laden. By tracking the trusted aide, the CIA found bin Laden's compound in Pakistan last August.
As Red State writes, "This information is such a strong rebuke against people who want to
close Gitmo that it is eye-watering."
Eh, not so fast.
First off, there's zero evidence yet that waterboarding or any other "advanced interrogation techniques" actually produced the key intel about bin Laden's courier.
When I visited Guantánamo, interrogator after interrogator stressed that the best information comes from standard tactics, not from brute torture.
"[It's] bad interrogation. I mean, you can get anyone to confess to
anything if the torture's bad enough," former CIA officer Bob Baer told ABC News.
And how many Al-Qaeda recruits have taken up jihad since 2002 because of the images they've seen of hooded detainees and reports of gross misconduct?
I'm not buying the Gitmo-caught-Osama narrative.
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Much credit should go to the interrogators in Cuba who obtained the info that brought Osama down.
But until I see evidence to the contrary, I don't believe they couldn't have done the same job just as effectively -- without the gross damage to America's reputation abroad -- in any other prison on U.S. soil, under U.S. laws.