Earnest to Karl: Even if Enhanced Interrogations Did Help Find bin Laden, It Wasn't Worth Damage It Did To US

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At Monday's press briefing, ABC News' White House correspondent Jonathan Karl grilled White House press secretary Josh Earnest on whether President Obama believes "enhanced interrogation techniques" yielded information that led to Osama bin Laden's location.

"I understand, obviously, that the president is very much opposed to these tactics, thought that they were morally reprehensible, not something the U.S. should be doing. But what does the White House believe on that question, did they produce actionable intelligence?," Karl asked. "It's a yes or no."

"You could think the tactics should not have been done, but were they effective in any way?" Karl added.

"There's a variety of views across the federal government about the effectiveness," Earnest said, dodging the question.

"What's the president's view?" Karl shot back.

"Well, there may be an opportunity for you to ask him that question," Earnest responded. "What I will tell you is that the president believes that the use of those tactics was unwarranted, that they were inconsistent with our values, and did not make us safer."

Karl attempted once more to get the Obama administration's view on whether "enhanced interrogation techniques" led to finding bin Laden.

"Let me try just one last very specific one that you've certainly talked a lot about over the last few years," Karl said. "Osama bin Laden. Were these techniques crucial to getting the intelligence that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden?"

Earnest said these issues have already been litigated, citing the period when the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" was released.

"There were a variety of views about whether or not information that was gleaned from enhanced interrogation techniques led to the eventual capture of Osama bin Laden," Earnest said.

"What we have been clear about, and what the president has been clear about, is that he does not believe that the use of these enhanced interrogation techniques is justified. He does not believe that makes us safer, he does not believe that is in the core national security interest," he added.

"You are asking a very difficult question and there are a variety of views on it," Earnest said to Karl. "The president's view is 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 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 we believe in as Americans."

JON KARL, ABC NEWS: On the central question here, which is, did these tactics, these so-called enhanced interrogation techniques produce any actual intelligence? The [Senate Intelligence] Committee believes they did not. The CIA believes they did. Where does the White House stand on the question? Does the White House believe these tactics produced any actionable intelligence?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Well, this is something that the president felt it was important for us, for the American people, to have a clear, unvarnished look, or at least a clear look as possible, into this classified program about what actually transpired. And that is why the president believes the release of this report is so important.

I haven't read the report, it's unclear whether or not the committee has taken up the question that you are raising, but certainly they will have something important to say about it.

KARL: I understand, obviously, that the president is very much opposed to these tactics, thought that they were morally reprehensible, not something the U.S. should be doing. But what does the White House believe on that question, did they produce actionable intelligence? It's a yes or no. Do you think they actually -- you could think the tactics should not have been done, but were they effective in any way?

EARNEST: Jon, as you pointed out, there's a variety of views across the federal government about the effectiveness.

KARL: What's the president's view?

EARNEST: Well, there may be an opportunity for you to ask him that question. What I will tell you is that the president believes that the use of those tactics was unwarranted, that they were inconsistent with our values, and did not make us safer. That, of course, is a different question than you are asking --

[CROSSTALK]

EARNEST: Let me finish this. Did they unearth useful national intelligence information? I think the president would say, and this is clear from the president's decision to outlaw these techniques, that even if they did, that it wasn't worth it. And that it did not enhance the national security of the United States of America.

KARL: 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.

These are of course complicated issues and they are worthy of discussion. This is something that was talked about quite a bit in the days immediately following the successful raid against Osama bin Laden. These were issues that were raised and discussed extensively in conjunction with the release of "Zero Dark Thirty," I believe a little over a year ago now.

There were a variety of views about whether or not information that was gleaned from enhanced interrogation techniques led to the eventual capture of Osama bin Laden. What we have been clear about, and what the president has been clear about, is that he does not believe that the use of these enhanced interrogation techniques is justified. He does not believe that makes us safer, he does not believe that is in the core national security interest.

And so the point is, you are asking a very difficult question and there are a variety of views on it. The president's view is 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 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 we believe in as Americans.

KARL: Is there any daylight between the president and the CIA on the question of whether or not they yielded any critical intelligence?

EARNEST: Well, I think it is apparent from at least some of the anonymous sources that you and others have had at the CIA, that there are people with a variety of opinions on this. But, with all due respect to those, I think that the views of the commander in chief are the ones that are most important.

KARL: Do you include the CIA director on that? I'm not speaking about anonymous sources. I'm saying is there any daylight between the president and the CIA?

EARNEST: You would have to ask Director Brennan exactly what he believes about that. I think he has been asked this question in the context of Congressional testimony. I don't have that directly in front of me but I know that there was an extensive discussion of this issue even during his confirmation hearing.

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