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DeMint: Time to Honor CIA's Work in Tracking Down Osama bin Laden


Location: Washington, DC

Today, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, submitted the following opening statement for the record during a morning hearing:

"Since the late-breaking announcement on Sunday evening that Osama bin Laden had been killed, the nation has been riveted by the valor and courage displayed by our troops that led to his demise.

"It took years of painstaking work to create the pivotal moments when U.S. forces descended upon bin Laden's compound and flawlessly executed their mission making the world a much safer place. In the aftermath, the public has learned how the fateful raid was made possible as the intelligence community has disclosed what clues allowed them to find bin Laden. Now is an appropriate time to review how that information was obtained in order to evaluate how the United States can continue to prevent terrorist attacks.

"One thing is clear: Central Intelligence Agency interrogators used secret prisons, that have since been dismantled, and enhanced interrogation techniques, that are now prohibited, to glean information from detained terrorists that was used, in part, to find bin Laden.

"According to U.S. officials, the path that ultimately led to bin Laden's door began with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti that was revealed by detainees to CIA interrogators in secret prisons sometime after the deadly 9/11 attacks. After al Qaeda's No. 3 leader and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured, he was subjected to enhanced interrogation methods, including water boarding, by CIA interrogators. Former CIA Director Mike Hayden has explained that these enhanced techniques are "designed to create a state of cooperation." This certainly seems to be the case with KSM, who following the use of enhanced interrogations, reportedly confirmed to the CIA that he knew the courier al-Kuwaiti that other detainees had discussed with the CIA--a sign this person had access to al-Qaeda's inner circle.

"This was only a small piece of all the information KSM provided. After being subjected to the enhanced interrogation techniques, KSM disclosed information about a "second wave" plot using an East Asian al-Qaeda group known as the Guraba cell to hijack and crash an airliner into the Library Tower in Los Angeles. KSM also gave interrogators information that led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, known as Hambali and leader of the Indonesian terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiyah.

"KSM eventually became compliant, and conducted what U.S. intelligence officers called "terrorist tutorials" for U.S. officials, instructing them about the inner workings of al Qaeda.

"Enhanced interrogation methods were used on other top CIA terrorist detainees with success, including Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nishiri, the alleged mastermind of the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. Interrogations of Zubaydah, who was captured before KSM, identified KSM as the coordinator of the 9/11 attacks and assisted the intelligence community in finding KSM.

"Those techniques, however, are no longer allowed to be used. In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order to shut down CIA detention centers and restrict all U.S. interrogators, across all agencies, to only 19 interrogation techniques contained in the Army Field Manual, all of which are available online.

"Yet, there is no question the enhanced interrogation methods prohibited and the detainee centers shuttered under that executive order were effective.

"Reflecting upon the use of enhanced interrogation techniques that were used on terrorist detainees who provided information about bin Laden's whereabouts current CIA Director Leon Panetta has said, "Obviously, there was some valuable information that were derived through those kinds of techniques."

"This is consistent with the CIA's previous statements under the Bush Administration. A May 30, 2005 Justice Department Memo said: "In particular, the CIA believes that it would have been unable to obtain critical information from numerous detainees, including KSM and Abu Zubaydah, without these enhanced techniques…Indeed, before the CIA used enhanced techniques in its interrogation of KSM, KSM resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, "Soon, you will know.'"

"The Justice memo continued, "As Zubaydah himself explained with respect to these enhanced techniques "brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardships.'"

"In 2005, KSM's successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi, was captured. The CIA again used the information that was obtained from the detainees in secret prisons. Al-Libi gave the CIA indications the courier al-Kuwaiti was an important figure.

"Tracking down the courier was the key to finding bin Laden. Sometime last year the courier talked on the phone with a person who was being monitored by U.S. intelligence. From there, the United States was able to follow the courier to bin Laden's lair in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

"There is no question the CIA's secret prisons and successful interrogation methods played a crucial role in finding bin Laden. Neither of those programs, however, is utilized today.

"In fact, Attorney General Eric Holder is considering prosecuting the men and women of the CIA who produced this information from detainees.

"Now is the time to honor the CIA's work. As we praise the courage and bravery of those who killed bin Laden and give thanks to the thousands of men and women who serve in our Armed Forces, we should also applaud members of the intelligence community who have done so much, under incredible political pressure, to keep the country safe.

"While Americans can find relief in the fact that bin Laden is dead, we must remain vigilant. Our homeland continues to be threatened by radical Islamist terrorists intent upon killing Americans at home and abroad. Richard Reid's shoe bombing plot, Jose Padilla's planned use of a dirty bomb against America, the Lackawanna Six, the Virginia Jihad Network, the 2007 Fort Dix conspiracy, the attempted Christmas Day bombing plot in 2009, the attack at Fort Hood in 2009, and the failed Times Square bombing plan are haunting reminders of this.

"Many others have been arrested for plotting to bomb shopping malls, subway stations and train tunnels, domestic oil and gas refineries, conspiring to target the Capitol and World Bank, as well as making plans to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge, the Sears Tower, and fuel tanks and pipelines at JFK International Airport. Twenty-four men were arrested in 2006 that sought to detonate liquid explosives on U.S.-bound commercial airlines. At least 30 planned terrorist attacks have been stopped since September 11th. U.S. authorities stopped six in 2009 alone.

"Thankfully, dedicated and relentless U.S. security forces averted all of those attacks.

"Our nation is fortunate to have so many men and women who volunteer to protect America. Although the United States made a great advance in winning the war on terror by killing Osama bin Laden, it is not over. Unfortunately, one of our most productive programs is now gone. Given its proven success, President Obama should consider re-starting the program."

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