It’s been over a week now since the U.S. located and took out our public enemy number one: Osama bin Laden. Thanks to the American intelligence officers and Navy SEALs’ successful execution of the operation to find the al Qaeda leader, our nation has finally concluded the ten-year manhunt for this vile terrorist. Bin Laden’s demise was possible for several reasons: the skill and training of our Armed Forces, the diligence of our intelligence community, the persistence of the past Administration, and the actions of the current Administration.
But there is an additional reason – perhaps of most significance – that this mission was even possible in the first place. The policies allowing for the capture, detainment, and interrogation of terrorists and terror suspects were a pivotal element in locating and killing bin Laden. It is because of these counterterrorism policies that for the past ten years, we have been able to extract and gather the necessary intelligence to connect the dots and track down our chief terrorist adversary.
After years of “just misses” and close calls on bin Laden’s whereabouts, U.S. military and intelligence officials finally received a breakthrough when the identity of one his trusted couriers was learned. According to military and intelligence officials, detainees had revealed the pseudonym of the courier to interrogators, and officials then used this information in interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, and Abu Faraj al-Libbi, KSM’s replacement as number three in al Qaeda’s hierarchy. After pursuing leads, they finally tracked the courier (in August of 2010) to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, leading them to bin Laden himself.
Without strong counterterrorism policies, we wouldn’t have been able to gather the critical intelligence that ultimately led officials to bin Laden’s location. Not only were these tough policies necessary to find him, but they are critical to reducing the threat terrorism poses to the U.S. in the future. Even with Bin Laden’s death, we have not eliminated terrorism’s presence in the world and therefore cannot dismiss it as some sort of antiquated threat.
But dismissive actions are exactly what the past few years have shown. While President Bush constructed and implemented programs to capture, detain, and survey threats, the Obama Administration has done little but criticize those decisions and policies. Within the first few months, it attempted to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and reduce the authorized interrogation procedures used there. The Administration also attempted to have al Qaeda leaders tried in civilian courts and launched an investigation into the interrogations of al Qaeda leaders by CIA officers.