For those who want to defend the CIA's torture program, the link between the interrogation programs and the capture of bin Laden has been both a frequent argument and a crown jewel. But there is no link — at least, not according to congressional aides and experts familiar with the controversial Senate Intelligence Committee report that is due to be released imminently.
It has been regularly suggested that torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed led to information about a figure named Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, who provided a critical link to bin Laden. The Senate report, however, indicates that the al-Kuwaiti information only emerged well after the torture took place, the Associated Press reports. What's more, even then it was of more limited value than has been suggested, and did not not include his real name. The CIA has also suggested that information from the torture of Abu Faraj al-Libi introduced the connection to al-Kuwaiti; the report also discredits that idea.
The supposed value of the CIA's torture program was cemented by the film Zero Dark Thirty, which opens with a scene showing the torture of a suspect known as Hassan Ghul. The aides interviewed by the AP didn't talk about the utility of Ghul's information, but California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the committee that drafted the report, has previously indicated that "an unidentified 'third detainee' had provided relevant information … the day before he was subjected to harsh CIA interrogation."
It's impossible to overestimate the significance of the bin Laden capture in the defense of the CIA's interrogation programs, defenses that have been particularly active recently. If the link doesn't exist, it would certainly cast the entire program in a less favorable light in the public imagination.
Which is no doubt part of the reason that the Senate staffers spoke with the AP. The Senate committee is in a contentious battle with the CIA over the report at the heart of the new information. The agency claims that Senate staffers violated the law by removing an internal document accidentally provided to them from a secure facility established by the CIA. The Senate has claimed that the CIA is trying to intimidate its staff, and, in some ways worse, obstruct the completion and accuracy of the report. The CIA disputed an early draft of the report; the internal document obtained by the Senate committee suggests that those disputes are at odds with the CIA's private views.
The Senate aides, who clearly work for or with Feinstein, were careful to note one other thing to the AP: "Without providing full details, aides said the Senate report illustrates the importance of the National Security Agency's efforts overseas." Feinstein has been a vocal champion of the NSA.