(MintPress) – Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stirred controversy during an NBC interview Sunday saying that “enhanced interrogation tactics” played a role in killing Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in 2011. President Obama, once thought to be a more humane alternative to the Bush administration, has proven that Democrats and Republicans both engage in the same war on terror.
Despite promises to close Guantanamo and end torture, Panetta’s recent interview highlights that policies have remained largely unchanged since Bush left office in 2008.
Panetta appeared on “Meet the Press,” speaking at length about his service as Secretary of Defense, anti-terror operations and the use of “enhanced interrogations” conducted by the United States during his tenure in office.
This interview comes on the heels of the State Department reassigning Daniel Fried, the special envoy for closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba last month. The State Department reportedly won’t replace Fried, perhaps signalling an end to the Obama administration’s feeble attempts to close Guantanamo and the sad chapter of illegal imprisonment and torture for more than 700 detainees.
Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International demand that Guantanamo must be closed and torture against detainees must cease. Torture is considered illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international laws. The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution also bans “cruel and unusual punishment” of prisoners.
Two-thirds of the American public believe that the U.S. should change its policies toward Guantanamo as prescribed by the UN Commission on Human Rights. This according to a World Public Opinion survey released Monday. Despite strong support for an end to torture, the Obama administration appears willing to continue the practice.
“The real story is that in order to put the puzzle of intelligence together that led us to bin Laden, there was a lot of intelligence. There were a lot of pieces out there that were part of that puzzle,” Panetta said.
Downplaying the use of torture in intelligence gathering, Panetta conceded that “enhanced interrogation” did help secure vital information leading to the capture of Osama Bin Laden. “Yes, some of it came from some of the tactics that were used at that time, interrogation tactics that were used,” he said. “But the fact is, we — we put together most of that intelligence without having to resort to that.”
The vague “tactics” that Panetta refers to, include waterboarding, a method that simulates the sensation of drowning by pouring water over the individual being interrogated. Former detainees claim that other methods of torture, including sleep and sensory deprivation, have been used by authorities against detainees held at Guantanamo Bay prison, a U.S.-controlled penal colony in Cuba.
Those on the inside with knowledge of these brutal tactics have faced intense criticism for speaking out against them.
John Kiriakou became the first ex-Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent charged with speaking out against U.S. torture programs during the Bush administration this month. The 14-year veteran of the CIA is set to spend 30 months in prison after being convicted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
Kiriakou, a strong critic of CIA torture, revealed the name of one colleague who tortured suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists. Kiriakou believes that the charge against him is designed to silence his public criticism of CIA torture, although his name has not yet been revealed.