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Bin Laden Death Reignites Battle over Waterboarding, 'Enhanced Interrogation'

John Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The death of Osama bin Laden has reignited debate about interrogation techniques and whether the framework set up during the Bush administration to detain and interrogate suspected terrorists contributed to the eventual capture of the al Qaeda leader.

In the hours after bin Laden's death Sunday, senior Obama administration officials said detainees had provided the nom de guerre of the courier who eventually lead intelligence officers to the compound housing bin Laden. Officials said the courier, who was killed during Sunday's raid, was identified by detainees as a protege of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- considered the mastermind of 9/11 -- and that he might be "living with and protecting" bin Laden.

The senior administration officials provided no information on who conducted the interviews and where they took place. But the comments sparked a debate about whether the information might have been the result of controversial, harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding used by intelligence officials against high-value detainees in secret overseas prisons run by the CIA in the years after 9/11.

President Bush confirmed the existence of the prisons in September of 2006, saying that the program had received strict oversight by the CIA's inspector general. But human rights groups said some of the techniques officials had used amounted to torture.

Upon taking office, President Obama signed an executive order barring the use of interrogation techniques not already authorized in the military's U.S. Army Field Manual.

At a hearing Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder was asked if the intelligence that lead to the operation was derived from any enhanced interrogation techniques. "There was a mosaic of sources," he said.

Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., asked the attorney general whether the public could be rest assured that the intelligence did not involve enhanced techniques.

"I do not know," Holder testified.

In an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl Monday, former Vice President Dick Cheney was asked about reports that the information might have come directly from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was held by the CIA and later transferred to Guantanamo Bay Cuba. The Bush administration has acknowledged that Mohammed had been subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques while in CIA custody.

Cheney, who has in the past defended the use of the interrogations such as waterboarding, said, "Well, it's an enhanced interrogation program that we put in place back in our first term. And I don't know the details. All I know is what I've seen in the newspaper at this point, but it wouldn't be surprising if in fact that program produced results that ultimately contributed to the success of this venture."

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who has been a fierce critic of the enhanced interrogation techniques, said, "I don't have any basis to believe that...any leads here were produced by illegal activities on our part. I have no basis to know that. And my views about the fact that torture produces misinformation, not good information, are pretty well known."

Intelligence Committee chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., agreed with Levin, saying Tuesday, "To the best of our knowledge, based on a look, none of it came as a result of harsh interrogation practices."

At a news briefing Tuesday, Obama spokesperson Jay Carney revealed few details on the information gathered from interrogations. "The fact is that no single piece of information led to the successful mission that occurred on Sunday and multiple detainees provided insights into the networks of people that might have been close to bin Laden," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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