White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today did not rule out that “enhanced interrogation” techniques conducted on terrorist suspects during the Bush administration provided the key that led to Osama Bin Laden.
“I can’t categorically rule out that one piece of information — because we don’t know,” Carney during in an exchange with me today in the White House briefing.
But Carney was careful to emphasize that any information gleaned by the interrogations was just a piece of a much broader “body of work” that enabled U.S. officials to discover Bin Laden’s hiding place.
A growing catalog of evidence, including statements by CIA Director Leon Panetta and reports in Time and by NBC’s Michael Isikoff, point to a potentially significant role for the interrogations in uncovering the early intel that led to Bin Laden.
Here’s the transcript of my exchange with Jay. I give him credit for answering the questions fairly directly, at least as press secretaries I’ve dealt with go.
KOFFLER: Can you say with certainty that bin Laden’s hideout would have been found without the enhanced interrogation techniques that were done under the Bush administration?
CARNEY: 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, if, you know — which — which thread held the cloth together, with the exception of the location of the compound. And I would simply note that that has not been — only been in existence for five or six years.
CARNEY: Can I finish just answering his question? That’d be great.
The fact is, is that information was gathered from detainees. We have multiple ways of gathering information: from detainees, from different methods that we have of getting information.
The work that was done that put the case together was done primarily by analysts gathering tiny bits of information and putting it together and creating a body of work, if you will, that led to the finding of the location where Osama bin Laden was hiding.
KOFFLER: To follow up. It sounds to me at the very least like what you’re saying is that the interrogation techniques cannot be ruled out as a critical and necessary piece to have found bin Laden. Is that correct? It’s possible that that’s true.
CARNEY: I’m saying that there was 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.
Now, I can’t categorically rule out that one piece of information — because we don’t know. We’re missing the sort of bigger picture here, which is that the incredibly hard and focused work of our intelligence community, intelligence professionals who don’t get credit because they’re so often, you know, we can’t name them and identify them and stand them up and celebrate them, led to this success.