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Waterboarding Point/Counterpoint: National Security Advisor vs. CIA Director vs. Attorney General

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By Doug Powers  •  May 3, 2011 08:27 PM

**Written by Doug Powers

Osama bin Laden has been found, but the Obama administration’s search for the same page continues.

Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan was on Morning Joe earlier in the day and countered a New York Times article that said information obtained by waterboarding helped lead US forces to Osama bin Laden:

When directly asked by Mika whether waterboarding was involved he responded:

Not to my knowledge. The information that was collected over the course of nine years or so came from many different sources: human sources, technical sources, as well as sources that detainees provided. It was something as a result of the painstaking work that the analysts did. They pieced it all together that lead us to the compound last year and resulted in the very successful operation Sunday.

Later in the day, Brian Williams spoke with CIA Director Leon Panetta and asked him a similar question in an interview that appeared on the NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
Turned around the other way, are you denying that water boarding was, in part, among the tactics used to extract the intelligence that led to this successful mission?

LEON PANETTA:
No, I think some of the detainees clearly were, you know, they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. But I’m also saying that, you know, the debate about whether– whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always going to be an open question.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
So finer point, one final time, enhanced interrogation techniques, which has always been kind of a handy euphemism in these post-9/11 years. That–

LEON PANETTA:
Right.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
–in– includes water boarding?

LEON PANETTA:
That’s correct.

As for Eric Holder and whether or not “advanced interrogation techniques” helped get Bin Laden, the Attorney General said he didn’t know. This all must be especially traumatic for somebody who a while back couldn’t bring himself to say the words “radical Islam,” so let’s cut him a break for a while.

Did waterboarding help track down Osama bin Laden? So far from administration officials we have a no, a yes, and one “I don’t know.”

Which one of those answers will President Obama give when Steve Kroft asks him about it tomorrow for Sunday’s 60 Minutes? Will we get a little of all three? Will the question even be asked? As Eric Holder might say, I don’t know.

**Written by Doug Powers

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