Who deserves credit after bin Laden's death, George Bush or Barack Obama?

Published: Friday, May 6 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

In a country where the divide between Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters is nearly even, its impossible to keep politics from creeping into everything — even the death of America's Public Enemy No. 1, Osama bin Laden.

Following the May 1 targeting of the terrorist leader, debate is emerging over who should receive credit for his death. Some argue that, as the one to pull the trigger on the attack, President Barack Obama deserves praise for his decisive action. However, others argue that Obamas success was built on the anti-terror foundation that was laid by former president George W. Bush.

As details emerge on how intelligence leading to bin Laden was gathered, its becoming clear that information gained under policies put in place by Bush and initially opposed, but later supported, by Obama, played a critical role in pinpointing bin Ladens location.

A May 2 Associated Press article states CIA interrogators in secret overseas prisons in Poland and Romania developed the first information that led to bin Laden.

According to the report, within those prisons Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned the Sept. 11 attacks, provided the pseudonym of one of bin Ladens most trusted aides. The Wall Street Journal also says intelligence came from detainees being held at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Telegraph reports a Wikileaks file suggests that the U.S. learned the identity of bin Laden courier Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti through the capture and CIA interrogation of al-Qaeda facilitator Hassan Ghul.

In an interview on NBC, Brian Williams asked CIA Director Leon Panetta about how the much-criticized enhanced interrogation methods used under Bush, such as waterboarding, helped develop information that led to bin Ladens takedown.

Clearly some of [the information] came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees, but we also had information from other sources as well, Panetta said. They used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees, but the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always going to be an open question.

After taking office in 2009, Obama ordered the ending of the CIAs overseas prisons, the banning of enhanced interrogation methods and the closing of Guantanamo Bay. Since then, Obama backed away from closing Guantanamo and ordered military commission trials to resume there, rather than the civilian trials he promised to pursue.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama may have banned Bushs interrogation methods and tweaked detention policies, but he also adopted — and amplified — the most important security polices, such as indefinite detention of terror detainees and military tribunals.

In another Wall Street Journal article, former attorney general Michael Mukasey said the very policies Obama once opposed helped him to locate and kill bin Laden. Support for these programs, he writes, is critical.

Policies put in place by the very administration that presided over this splendid success promise fewer such successes in the future, Mukasey said. Acknowledging and meeting the need for an effective and lawful interrogation program, which we once had, and freeing CIA operatives and others to administer it under congressional oversight, would be a fitting way to mark the demise of Osama bin Laden.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argued that the information regarding bin Laden was not gathered through waterboarding, however.

It is true that some information that came from normal interrogation approaches at Guantanamo did lead to information that was beneficial in this instance, Rumsfeld told Newsmax. But it was not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding.

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