Santorum: Sen. McCain "Doesn't Understand How Enhanced Interrogation Works"

May 17, 2011 4:31 pm ET — Alan Pyke

If you thought a tongue-lashing from America's most famous torture victim would shut up presidential hopeful Rick Santorum and the pro-torture right, you thought wrong. Today on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, Santorum reiterated his claim that "enhanced interrogation techniques" led American forces to Osama bin Laden, declaring that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) "doesn't understand how enhanced interrogation works."

HH: Now your former colleague, John McCain, said look, there's no record, there's no evidence here that these methods actually led to the capture or the killing of bin Laden. Do you disagree with that? Or do you think he's got an argument?

RS: I don't, everything I've read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation. And so this idea that we didn't ask that question while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he doesn't understand how enhanced interrogation works. I mean, you break somebody, and after they're broken, they become cooperative. And that's when we got this information. And one thing led to another, and led to another, and that's how we ended up with bin Laden. That seems to be clear from all the information I read. Maybe McCain has better information than I do, but from what I've seen, it seems pretty clear that but for these cooperative witnesses who were cooperative as a result of enhanced interrogations, we would not have gotten bin Laden.

Santorum was among the first to tout bin Laden's killing as a vindication for torture. At a South Carolina GOP presidential debate earlier this month, he insisted that it's a "fact" that the Bush-era torture program known as "enhanced interrogation" was directly responsible for the intelligence that lead American forces to Osama bin Laden. He cited no evidence.

Since then, nothing's come out to support Santorum's claim, save for an op-ed by former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey, which cites no sources save Mukasey's own conviction that torture got us to bin Laden.

Seeking clarification, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) asked CIA Director Leon Panetta to shed light on the question. Panetta told McCain not only that torture failed to produce the identity of bin Laden's personal courier, but also that tortured detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed repeatedly lied about that crucial detail, even after being waterboarded 183 times — which McCain relayed to the public in an op-ed and an impassioned speech on the Senate floor. Reporting by the New York Times on the chain of intelligence finds that led us to the late al Qaeda mastermind backs up the story that KSM lied to protect bin Laden long after the waterboarding 'broke' him.

Yet according to Santorum, "everything I've read" shows that we "break somebody" with enhanced interrogation and "they become cooperative." He should try removing his ideological blinders next time he sits down to read about the hunt for bin Laden.