SPECIAL REPORT

What Info Led to Bin Laden?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 3, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-C.A., SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITT EE CHAIRMAN: To the best of our knowledge, based on a look, none of it came as a result of harsh interrogation practices.

REP. PETER KING, R-N.Y., HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: I've spoke to people who are close to situation who said initial information came fro m Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after he was waterboarded, directly relating to the courier. And that after extensive interrogation also of al Libi, more information came. Initial information about the courier came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after waterboarding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, there is a lot of back and forth on this issue about the intelligence and where the initial thread came from, whether it came from enhanced interrogation techniques used in the Bush administration. Leon Panetta, the CIA director, in an interview with NBC just said this, "It's a little difficult to say it was due to just one source of information that we got. I think some of the detainees clearly were, you know, they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees." Brian Williams follows up, "That includes waterboarding?" Leon Panetta - quote -- "That's correct."

Before the break, we asked you what benefit will the killing of Usama bin Laden have on president Obama's re-election chances, 66 percent of you said it will have no benefit.

So what about first, let's start with the intelligence part of it. Back with the panel. Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I was on the phone all day trying to get to the bottom of this, because you have actually had reports, incredible news outlets, the Associated Press, New York Times, elsewhere that have basically pinned the origination of this information on five different sources, five different detainees. All of whom were subject to harsh interrogation techniques.

I believe ultimately that the piece of information came in 2002, probably from a detainee named Katani, who was subjected to harsh interrogation techniques but wasn't part of the CIA's official enhanced interrogation program, which started a little bit later. That then they took that piece of information to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to Abu Faraj, al Libi and they asked them about this.

They denied knowing this very important courier, which the CIA took to be actually a confirmation of the importance of this courier. Basically, the CIA concluded that if these guys are so strongly denying knowing this guy, or that he is important as he is, it's an affirmation that he, indeed, is as important as he is.

From there, they took this piece of information which is his nom de guerre, and ran it by all the detainees the way that one they would expect in [INAUDIBLE]

BAIER: And that is what Catherine Herridge reported, was the fact that they both held back on this name set off alarm bells. But the fact that we are dealing with this question of whether President Obama had been president in 2005 would we have had -- have had the same initial thread of intelligence that led to the compound raid of bin Laden?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I don't know how to answer that question, Bret. But it seems to me what's behind all this is the idea that somehow enhanced interrogation, waterboarding is now legitimized by the fact that it may have contributed to capturing and killing bin Laden. And I don't think that is a legitimate way to think about this. I think, in fact, you have to say what are our values as Americans? Do we believe in torturing people?

HAYES: Those are two different issues. You can say that they were effective and we don't believe in them, but you can't deny, I think at this point, that they were effective.

WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know that you say conclusively they were effective. I think we used them and in some cases we may have gotten information as a result of it. That doesn't mean though Steve that we couldn't have obtained that information through other techniques, which is what I hear from intelligence officials. So, to me that's not conclusive, but I fear that the argument that's being led here at the table is one that says, well if in fact, it did lead to bin Laden's killing, then from this point on, we will say it's a good thing.

BAIER: First of all, Juan, let's not say that it's being led here at the table. Lawmakers are talking about it all day today and we're talking about what they are talking about.

WILLIAMS: Right.

BAIER: But Charles, your thoughts?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: If you're the president at the time, America has been attacked, the twin towers are a cinder, thousands of Americans are dead. We have no real solid information on these people, you do not take the risk of saying well, perhaps I'll get information in another way if I say name, rank, and serial number. The Bush administration did exactly the right thing.

And if Senator Obama had been the president at the time, it's quite likely we would not have had this information and this result. That's a fact. Now you can make a moral judgment, well OK, it would have been worth it not to do it and to suffer the terrorist casualties, but that might have resulted otherwise in this and other instances. I would say no. The first responsibility as the president is to protect Americans, innocent Americans and you do what you have to do.

BAIER: OK. Lightning round, we've got the job approval numbers up. Washington Post Pew Research, and here is the April to May 2, there is a bump. There you see it, 56/38. Big deal? Holds?

HAYES: The bump itself isn't a big deal. How high and how long it lasts, but the fact that Republicans will have a hard time making arguments that he is incompetent after this, I think is what really matters.

BAIER: That is the end of the panel because we have to come back. We chewed it all up.

(CROSSTALK)

KRAUTHAMMER: That was true lightning.

BAIER: It really was. That's it for panel. Stay tuned for one man on the street's reaction to the big announcement Sunday night.

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