Elisabeth Meinecke
Like the accounts of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the narrative of whether enhanced interrogation helped find him has top figures contradicting one another.

Former attorney general Michael B. Mukasey, under fire from Sen. John McCain for his description of the events that uncovered the name of bin Laden's courier, did not back down Monday at an AEI panel from his description of how the information was obtained. Mukasey said the fact is Khalid Sheik Muhammed underwent enhanced interrogation, and after undergoing enhanced interrogation, he mentioned the courier's nickname and also the false information that the courier had left al Qaeda. The CIA, when they went back and checked their files, found the name already mentioned, but the information was insignificant, Mukasey said, until it came from KSM himself. When the CIA later matched the information that the courier had left al Qaeda with newer developments, it became clear that KSM was covering for him, another "very significant" fact, according to Mukasey.

Last week, however, Sen. McCain declared, and quoted CIA Director Leon Panetta, that the name of the courier who led the United States to Osama bin Laden was not learned as a result of waterboarding or any enhanced interrogation technique in U.S. custody. The information was part of a broader point McCain made that the United States should not engage in enhanced interrogation.

"All we learned about Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti [the courier] through the use of waterboarding and other ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ against Khalid Sheik Mohammed was the confirmation of the already known fact that the courier existed and used an alias," McCain said. “I have sought further information from the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and they confirm for me that, in fact, 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 Osama bin Laden – was obtained through standard, non-coercive means, not through any ‘enhanced interrogation technique.’"

But Mukasey's fellow panelist, Marc Thiessen, provided further clarification, stating that the report McCain referred to was, in fact, only discovered after CIA detainees coughed up the name and the CIA did a "deep dive" into their analysis to find any information they might already have on this person. But the report, when they found it, remained insignificant, since it contributed nothing new to what the CIA had already learned from its own interrogations.

Elisabeth Meinecke

Elisabeth Meinecke is TOWNHALL MAGAZINE Managing Editor. Follow her on Twitter @lismeinecke.