Three days after the spectacular mission by Navy SEALS that finished Osama bin Laden, two top administration officials were offering somewhat differing views as to whether enhanced interrogation techniques were key to hunting down the most wanted man in the world.
CIA Director Leon Panetta hinted strongly that they were on Tuesday, but on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was not willing to be so specific about the value of the techniques used to gather information from terrorist detainees under the Bush administration
Asked by NBC-TV’s Brian Williams about the information obtained from detainees that led to the bin Laden takedown, Panetta replied: ‘We had multiple series of sources that provided information with regards to this situation. … Clearly some of it came from detainees [and] they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of those detainees.”
When Williams asked whether “waterboarding” was one of those techniques, Panetta replied: “That’s correct.”
A day later, at the regular press briefing for reporters at the White House, Carney was asked the same question as Panetta, whom President Obama recently nominated to be secretary of defense. Carney soft-pedaled the response, saying: “We have multiple ways of gathering information from detainees, from different methods that we have of getting information.”
The President’s top spokesman said, “I can say with certainty that no single piece of information, with the exception of the address of the compound, was vital to this—was singularly vital to this—because we’re talking about tiny bits of information that were compiled by unbelievably competent professionals over nine-and-a-half years. And it’s impossible to know if one piece of information came from one source and was corroborated in another way— which thread held the cloth together—with the exception of the location of the compound.”
Pressed as to whether he was saying that the interrogation techniques cannot be ruled out as a critical and necessary piece in finding bin Laden, Carney would only say, “I’m saying that there is no single piece of information beyond the location of the compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding out that was incontrovertibly critical to the success of this operation on Sunday.”
Clearly, there will be a lot of followup questions for both Carney and Panetta in the days ahead.