From some sources:
Officials say CIA interrogators in secret overseas prisons developed the first strands of information that ultimately led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Current and former U.S. officials say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, provided the nom de guerre of one of bin Laden’s most trusted aides. The CIA got similar information from Mohammed’s successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi. Both were subjected to harsh interrogation tactics inside CIA prisons in Poland and Romania.
It’s a far cry from this to the conclusion, “torture works.” Unknowns include what the same subjects would’ve said absent torture — more, less, or the same. The name of an aide, for example, is relatively low-value information, that only appears valuable sitting where we are today. Call this the classic case of the bad decision with a good result: torturers could not have known, ex ante, whether information from KSM was reliable, useful, or just another lie or red herring.
Twice in a thousand cases, it seems, we obtained, through torture, a small piece of a much, much larger puzzle, that ultimately led to the death of Al Qaeda’s leader more than half a decade later. Along the way, we tortured dozens of innocents, and dozens of guilty men, without anything good coming of it. It’s a rare mind that considers the issue resolved on those facts.