Detainees interrogated in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks gave US intelligence agents the breakthrough they needed to hunt down Osama bin Laden, senior Obama administration officials said.
Controversial torture-style techniques – including water-boarding, stress positions and sleep deprivation – were approved to be used on prisoners during the Bush administration and have been widely criticised by human rights groups.
But intelligence gained from such interrogations was hailed by US officials as being directly responsible for helping security forces hunt down and kill bin Laden.
Prisoners interrogated by US officials in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks identified a specific “courier” who provided direct support to bin Laden after he fled Afghanistan, eventually tracking him to the compound where the terrorist mastermind was killed, the Obama administration said.
The revelation will fuel the debate over the use of such interrogation techniques and whether the ends justify the means.
But Mike Blakemore, of human rights group Amnesty International, said: “Torture is repugnant, immoral and illegal.
“It’s never justifiable and no-one should be trying to use tracking down Osama bin Laden or anything else to try and say torture is acceptable.
“Whatever is claimed, it is of course also hopelessly unreliable as a source of information – someone being tortured will say anything to try and make their suffering stop.”