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Holder: Don't Know If Waterboarding Led to bin Laden Holder: Don't Know If Waterboarding Led to bin Laden

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Holder: Don't Know If Waterboarding Led to bin Laden


Attorney General Eric Holder(MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES)

Although Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday commended the U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden, he said he didn't know whether any of the information that led to bin Laden's death was gleaned during "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding.

Holder, a longtime opponent of keeping the Guantanamo Bay prison open, was asked whether lawmakers could be assured that the intelligence that led to bin Laden's killing was not the result of waterboarding and other methods used under the George W. Bush administration to extract information from inmates.


"There was a mosaic of sources that lead to the identification of the people" that ultimately led to al-Qaida's leader, Holder told the House Judiciary Committee.

When asked if "any" enhanced interrogation techniques directly led to bin Laden's killing, Holder simply replied: "I do not know." 

In a startling reversal of policy last month, President Obama ordered a military commission at Guantanamo Bay to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks--despite the administration's (and Holder's) push to bring Mohammed to trial in New York City. Efforts to close Guantanamo have faltered as well and the prison is enjoying an unexpected second life under the Obama administration, which had decried the prison and its previous interrogation techniques as unethical and an embarrassment to the United States.



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Holder, on Tuesday, said that his position on military commissions is often "mischaracterized," adding that, "especially because they have been modified," military commissions are "constitutional [and] can give fair trials."

Holder warned that the government and law-enforcement agencies cannot become “complacent” because of the possibility of retaliatory attacks. “The fight [against terrorism] is far from over…. Just yesterday I ordered the [Justice] Department's prosecutors and law-enforcement agencies to be mindful that bin Laden's death could result in retaliatory acts in the United States or against our interests overseas.”

Bin Laden’s killing was the result of a “steadfast, almost decadelong effort,” Holder said, which has been “at the forefront of our work” in which the Justice Department played a vital role. “Osama bin Laden has been brought to justice,” he added.


Last year, Holder told Congressthat it's unlikely bin Laden would be captured alive. "We will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama bin Laden," he said.

When asked Tuesday whether it was legal to take action in Pakistan against bin Laden, Holder said he thought the operation was "both lawful, legitimate, and appropriate in every way." The U.S. decision makers "handled themselves, I think, quite well," he said.

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