Torture didn’t help us track down bin Laden
A government that practices a policy of torture, as the US did under Bush, inevitably gets some intelligence from that. So it would not have been surprising had some intelligence leading to bin Laden originated in that fashion. In fact, as far as we now know, that was not the case. The information leading to bin Laden originated from legal interrogation methods and hard intelligence work. It shows how authoritarian the modern right has become that it not only has made support for torture one of its touchstones, but that it would try to justify a policy of torture by pointing to some intelligence garnered that way, and that when it cannot do so, it runs with that talking point using bogus claims. With that now as part of the American political fabric, it’s tempting, as some on the left do, to credit bin Laden with how America changed in the decade of the noughts. I think that’s a mistake. Where we fell, we did it to ourselves. And I’m hopeful that we will correct the worst of those mistakes.
Update: Andrew Sullivan nicely unwinds how the torture proponents are eager to use even the slimmest connection to justify their policies. Note how far the practice of torture, even for a few years, has shifted the debate on it. From the notion that it might be justified under rare ticking time-bomb scenarios where innocent lives are at stake, the extreme right has reached the point where it applauds torture if it ever produces any useful information at all!