“The debate is unlikely ever to be settled. But multiple U.S. intelligence officials told Reuters the real breakthrough that led to bin Laden came from a mysterious CIA detainee named Hassan Ghul. Ghul, who was not captured until 2004 at the earliest, was not subjected to waterboarding, the CIA’s roughest and most controversial interrogation technique. It had already been phased out by the time he was captured. But two U.S. officials acknowledged he may well have been subjected to other coercive CIA tactics, possibly including stress positions, sleep deprivation and being slammed into a wall.

“It was Ghul, the officials said, who after years of tantalizing hints from other detainees finally provided the information that prompted the CIA to focus intensely on finding Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti, pseudonym for the courier who would lead them to bin Laden…

“Leaving Ghul aside, it remains unclear whether the brutal interrogations — which Obama banned upon taking office — were effective or not.

“The available facts, bolstered by evidence from secret Guantanamo detainee files made public by the WikiLeaks organization, suggest that some of the first information U.S. intelligence received about Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti surfaced in 2002, when the harshest elements of the CIA interrogation program were still in force.”

***
“Three of Osama bin Laden’s wives have been interrogated by U.S. intelligence officers under the supervision of Pakistani’s intelligence service, according to sources in both governments.

“The women — who were all interviewed together — were ‘hostile’ toward the Americans, according to a senior Pakistani government official with direct knowledge of the post-bin Laden investigation and two senior U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the matter. The eldest of the three wives spoke for the group…

“All three officials said that the interrogation didn’t yield much new information, while adding that it was early in the process.”

***
“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who calls himself the mastermind of the attacks in which planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, seemed to be busy conjuring up many plots before his capture, according to the documents. Telling interrogators that al Qaeda had planned to create a ‘nuclear hell storm,’ Mohammed gave up a chilling laundry list of attacks in the works…

“Faris also was crucial to Mohammed’s plan to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge by cutting the suspension cables, according to the documents…

“Al Qaeda abandoned the plan, calling the weather ‘too hot,’ meaning there was too much security on the bridge for the plan to go forward. But Kelly said the plan to cut the cables, using special blowtorches, could have been implemented if an attacker had gotten into a security room where the cables are anchored…

“And in the category of failed plots, the documents say the self-proclaimed enemy of the United States noted that because he did not hit the White House during September 11 attacks, as he planned, he would ‘somehow try to attack the White House again one day, due to its symbolic value to America.’

***
“I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

“In fact, the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means…

“As we debate how the United States can best influence the course of the Arab Spring, can’t we all agree that the most obvious thing we can do is stand as an example of a nation that holds an individual’s human rights as superior to the will of the majority or the wishes of government?”