Hannity Falsely Claims Panetta Contradicted Obama On Enhanced Interrogation

Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

Fox News host Sean Hannity claimed Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta contradicted President Obama's administration by admitting that information obtained by enhanced interrogation led to the death of Osama bin Laden. In fact, Panetta's statement is similar to those made by the Obama administration: that the operation was put together with information from a variety of sources, and that information leading to the raid on bin Laden's compound could have been gathered without resorting to enhanced interrogation.

On the February 4 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity claimed Panetta contradicted the Obama administration's longtime assertion that very little information obtained from enhanced interrogation techniques contributed to the operation that resulted in the bin Laden raid. Hannity played a clip of Panetta on NBC's Meet the Press in which he responded to a question about the film Zero Dark Thirty and the use of enhanced interrogation to capture bin Laden, then later asked guest Liz Cheney why President Obama "can't even acknowledge what is an obvious, simple truth, that those EITs did given them intelligence that led to the capture and killing of bin Laden?"

In fact, Panetta explained on the February 3 edition of Meet the Press that the raid on bin Laden's compound could have been successful without any information gathered through enhanced interrogation.

CHUCK TODD (host): Zero Dark Thirty. We'll show a little bit here. We've got James Gandolfini, of course -- most people call him Tony Soprano -- playing you as a CIA director. I won't ask you to comment on the acting, but there's been a serious debate about the movie seems to say -- seems to indicate that enhanced interrogation techniques or torture were used to get information on bin Laden. Is that true?

PANETTA: Well, first of all, it's a movie. Let's remember that. I lived the real story with the --


PANETTA: -- operation. And the real story is that in order to put the puzzle of intelligence together that led us to bin Laden, there was a lot of intelligence. There were a lot of pieces out there that were part of that puzzle. Yes, some of it came from some of the tactics that were used at that time, interrogation tactics that were used. But the fact is, we put together most of that intelligence without having to resort to that.

TODD: And you think you could have gotten it without any --

PANETTA: I think we could have gotten bin Laden without that.

And Panetta's statement did not contradict statements made by the Obama administration. On May 4, 2011, CNN reported that White House press secretary Jay Carney also noted that intelligence leading to the death of bin Laden was gathered from numerous sources:

"I can say with certainty that no single piece of information, with the exception of the address of the compound, 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," Carney said. "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 thread held the cloth together, with the exception of the location of the compound."

Carney acknowledged that some information came from terrorism detainees, which he called one of many ways that information was gathered.

"Now, I can't categorically rule out that one piece of information" played a key role, "because we don't know," Carney said.

 According to Talking Points Memo, Attorney General Eric Holder similarly stated:

"There was a mosaic of sources that lead to the identification of the people" who lead to bin Laden, Holder told members of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Pressed by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) on whether any information used to find bin Laden came out during enhanced interrogation, Holder said he didn't know.

Hannity has been a staunch advocate of enhanced interrogation techniques, asserting on both Fox News and his radio show that it led to the capture of bin Laden.

Posted In
The Presidency & White House, National Security & Foreign Policy
Sean Hannity, Liz Cheney
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