The article is based on anecdotal narrative. "But a closer look at prisoner interrogations suggests that the harsh techniques played a small role at most in identifying Bin Laden’s trusted courier and exposing his hide-out." The statement is not supported by the rest of the article. The biggest error, however, is one of omission. The operation was run by the CIA. The current CIA Chief made the statement on NBC leading to this headline on the msnbc site "CIA chief: Waterboarding aided bin Laden raid".
Of all the people quoted Panetta's is the most authoritative, and for the Times to omit his input is very telling.
But the article you linked is far from definitive in supporting the idea that waterboarding and other types of harsh interrogation procedures were the primary factor in leading to the information on where Bin Laden was hiding. From that article:
"But was it harsh interrogation that led to the critical information? The identity and whereabouts of the courier came to light only years later, after the enhanced interrogation had stopped. ...
"Critics say there's no way to know if enhanced interrogation methods led to that one crucial piece of intelligence.
" 'To reduce this to the idea that one piece of fact here or there came from enhanced interrogation techniques and their use is really misleading the American public,' said Karen Greenberg, NYU Center On Law And Security.
"Administration officials say it was multiple sources of intelligence and years of patient work that eventually led to bin Laden."
And that article includes a link to another article, which can be read in full at http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/42863247/ns/today-today_news/t/bin-ladens-death-rekindles-enhanced-interrogation-debate/
. Here are some excerpts from the other article:
"While some current and former U.S. officials credited those interrogations Monday with producing the big break in the case, others countered that they failed to produce what turned out to be the most crucial piece of intelligence of all: the identity and whereabouts of the most important figure in bin Laden courier's network. ...
"It is unclear what Qahtani, who was captured in January 2002, told interrogators about the crucial bin Laden courier and whether he was fully honest. While Liz Cheney and other conservatives on Monday tried to portray the bin Laden raid as vindication of the intelligence community’s tough interrogations of “high-value” detainees, other details suggest that the most aggressive “enhanced interrogation” techniques -- including waterboarding, against other detainees, particularly 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed -- proved useless in learning the identity of the bin Laden courier.
... [emphasis added]
"After Qahtani was subjected to some of the humiliating interrogations at Guantanamo that later became public, he started to cooperate and, for a while, provided a wealth of information about al-Qaida, including references to the courier in question, the U.S. official said. An October 2008 Defense Department document about Qahtani, identifying him as Maad al Qahtani, recently released by WikiLeaks, detailed a long history of involvement with al-Qaida, including spending time at training camps and guest houses in Afghanistan and fleeing with bin Laden through the caves of Tora Bora in November 2001. (Qahtani later clammed up, repudiated what he had previously said and stopped cooperating.)
"In addition, a senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News investigative producer Robert Windrem that both Mohammed, who was repeatedly waterboarded by the CIA, and al Libi, who was aggressively interrogated but not waterboarded, provided the nom de guerre of the courier. Mohammed was among the “high-value detainees” subjected to specially approved “enhanced” interrogations at secret sites overseas, including CIA-run prisons in Poland, Romania, Thailand and elsewhere, according to U.S. officials.
"But U.S. officials stressed that none of the detainees at that point offered up the real identity of the courier. “All we had was the nom de guerre,” said the U.S. official. To one counterterrorism expert who has sharply criticized the CIA’s interrogations, the failure of any of the high-value detainees to provide the identity of the courier raises fresh questions about the value of the information the agency was receiving from enhanced interrogations.
“ 'They waterboarded KSM (Khaled Sheikh Mohammed) 183 times and he still didn’t give the guy up,' said one former U.S. counterterrorism official who asked not to be identified. 'Come on. And you want to tell me that enhanced interrogation techniques worked?' "