White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest indicated Monday that the enhanced interrogation techniques employed under the Bush administration should not have been used, even if they helped snare Osama Bin Laden.
The capture of Bin Laden is one of the greatest successes of Obama’s presidency. That success, however, was predicated on work done during the Bush administration, including intelligence that helped find Bin Laden. There is evidence information gleaned from the enhanced interrogations led to Bin Laden’s courier, who served as his connection to the outside world.
From an exchange between Earnest and Jonathan Karl of ABC News.
KARL: But let me try just one last very specific one that you’ve certainly talked a lot about over the last few years.Osama bin Laden — were these techniques crucial to getting the intelligence that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden?
EARNEST: Well, Jon, this has been litigated quite extensively, and it —
KARL: You should have an answer right there at the tip of your —
EARNEST: Well, these are, of course, complicated issues and they’re worthy of discussion. And this was something that was talked about quite a bit in the days immediately following the successful raid against Osama bin Laden . . .
And so the point is, you’re asking a very difficult question and there are a variety of views on it, but it’s the President’s view that wherever you come down on this equation of, yes, it yielded information that was helpful, yes, it yielded information that was crucial, or no, it didn’t yield any helpful information, the President believes that regardless of what the answer to that question is, that the use of these techniques was not worth it because of the harm that was done to our national values and the sense of what it is that we believe in as Americans.
A report on the techniques was released today by Democrats who lead the Senate Intelligence Committee. Obama, in a written statement, praised the release, no matter the potential backlash throughout the world:
I have consistently supported the declassification of today’s report. No nation is perfect. But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better . . . Today is also a reminder that upholding the values we profess doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger, and that the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.
Well, that’s all very nice, but there are many who say the program, which clearly included torture, not only led to Bin Laden but prevented further attacks on our nation.
Instead of agonizing over uncomfortable interrogation techniques, Obama sits in his office and orders drones to kill and maim terrorists and their associates who haven’t been tried, along with civilians who might surround them. Is that any more consistent with our values?
How about dropping atomic bombs on civilians? Would Obama like to take that one back?
I don’t particularly mind that we tortured – and yes, I’m willing to call it what it is – a few obvious evildoers to prevent the possible deaths of thousands of American civilians. I don’t think it damaged the soul of our nation. And I don’t see how it could not have led to valuable intelligence.
We are a good people, the most ethical on earth. We are also a people who will do what is necessary to preserve our republic when our republic is threatened. That doesn’t mean we’ll do anything necessary. But it does mean we can confront the world as we find it when it’s trying to burn down our home.
My father once told me that the Russians, when they liberated the concentration camps, gave their weapons to the Jews and let them shoot all their Nazi guards. The Russians, I thought. They didn’t quite have the ethical restraints we did. But they exacted true justice. I liked it.
During my days as a bartender, one of my regulars had been a World War II tank commander on the Western front, rolling all the way through France into Germany. He too had helped liberate a concentration camp or two. I told him this story of the Russians and the Jewish concentration camp inmates.
“What do you think we did?” He asked me.
I liked it.