In the space of 40 minutes on Sunday night, two Navy SEAL teams descended on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed the fugitive leader of al Qaeda. They brought a rough measure of justice to the man responsible for the killing of 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001 and thousands of others in countries from Spain to Iraq. Credit goes to the armed forces, which executed the operation; the intelligence agencies, which found the target; and the Obama administration, which approved it.
Sunday's success also vindicates the Bush administration, whose intelligence architecture marked the path to bin Laden's door. According to current and former administration officials, CIA interrogators gathered the initial information that ultimately led to bin Laden's death. The United States located al Qaeda's leader by learning the identity of a trusted courier from the tough interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, and his successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi.
Armed with the courier's nom de guerre, American intelligence agencies later found him thanks to his phone call to a contact already under electronic surveillance. Last August, the courier traveled to bin Laden's compound, but it took another eight months before the CIA became certain that the al Qaeda leader was hiding inside.
President George W. Bush, not his successor, constructed the interrogation and warrantless surveillance programs that produced this week's actionable intelligence. For this, congressional Democrats and media pundits pilloried him for allegedly exceeding his presidential powers and violating the Bill of Rights.