Several  conservative members of the punditocracy have  appeared to struggle in an effort to give President Obama the richly deserved credit for making the right decision that led to Osama bin Laden’s death-but they’ve done it. Former Bush administration officials have been particularly gracious in their praise of President Obama.

 But it is also important to acknowledge that many Bush-era decisions, some horribly unpopular, also contributed to the success of the mission. Catherine Herridge of Fox is reporting that “years of intelligence gathering, including details gleaned from controversial interrogations of Al Qaeda members during the Bush administration, ultimately led the Navy SEALS who killed Osame bin Laden to his compound in Pakistan:”

The initial threads of intelligence began surfacing in 2003 and came in the form of information about a trusted bin Laden courier, a senior U.S. official told Fox News on condition of anonymity. Bin Laden had cut off all traditional lines of communication with his network by this time because the Al Qaeda leader knew the U.S. intelligence community was monitoring him. It was said that he also didn’t even trust his most loyal men to know his whereabouts and instead communicated only through couriers.

But it was four years later, in 2007, that terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay military prison started giving up information about the key courier.

Around this time, the use of enhanced interrogation tactics, including waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, were being denounced as torture by critics of the Bush administration. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney came under intense pressure for supporting rough treatment of prisoners. Critics claimed that any information given under duress simply couldn’t be trusted.

It is an argument that Bush and Cheney strongly rejected then, and now.

Michael Isikoff of NBC concurs:

The trail that led to the doorstep of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan began years earlier with aggressive interrogations of al-Qaida detainees at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and CIA “black site” prisons overseas, according to U.S. officials.

Iskioff is an investigative reporter and he has a nice recap of how the intelligence was found. I have always believed harsh interrogations can be productive so none of it bothers me. I suspect a lot of people have changed their minds over the last two days, however.

Fouad Ajami notes that bin Laden’s star had dimmed before he died, and that this was partly because of U.S. firmness:

In Afghanistan and Iraq we fought back, we even put on the ground-in the face of all kind of obstacles-a reasonably successful democratic experiment in Iraq. Bin Laden and his ilk (not to mention some neighboring powers) had done their best to thwart the Iraqi project, but the experiment had survived. And al Qaeda was to be rebuffed in Iraq by the very Sunnis it had presumably come to rescue. Bin Laden’s bet had failed: There would be no hasty American retreats à la Beirut and Mogadishu. We had awakened to the connection between Arab pathologies and our own security here at home.