Officials spar on source of bin Laden tip

May 17, 2011 at 11:39 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 17 (UPI) -- Current and former U.S. government officials disagreed over word choice about how U.S. officials got intelligence that led to the location of Osama bin Laden.

The battle of the words began May 12, when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former prisoner of war tortured by his Vietnamese captors, criticized people who claimed that intelligence gotten through harsh interrogation techniques on detainees such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-acclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States, was used to find bin Laden, killed during a raid on his compound in Pakistan by U.S. forces, ABC News reported.

McCain specifically criticized comments made by Michael Mukasey, a U.S. attorney general during President George W. Bush's administration, who said in a May 6 Wall Street Journal commentary that the trail to bin Laden "began with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM)" after he was subjected to waterboarding. Mukasey said "KSM" revealed "the nickname of a trusted courier of bin Laden."

In his floor speech, McCain said he spoke with CIA Director Leon Panetta, who told him "KSM" did not provide the name of the courier. Panetta said in the letter the courier's name was revealed by a detainee not in CIA custody.

Since McCain's speech and Mukasey's commentary, former Bush administration officials have voiced support for the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques and criticized President Obama for signing an executive order limiting the use of interrogation to ones found in the military's Army Field Manual.

Observers note that both Mukasey and Panetta could be correct, since Mukasey said a nickname was revealed by "KSM" and Panetta said the "full true name" of the courier was revealed from another detainee, ABC News said.

Mukasey, in an appearance Monday at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, said he wasn't interested in playing semantics.

"I know what I said to be true, and you can read into [Panetta's] letter what you want to," Mukasey said.

"I'm not interested in playing word games with anybody, least of all with a certified war hero [McCain] who has a superb public record," Mukasey said. "But it's possible to be a war hero and have an excellent public record and be mistaken about some things, all at the same time."

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