White House Transparently Opaque On CIA Interrogation Actions

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By Randy Foreman, White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON – (Newsblaze) From the moment reporters were gathering for Monday’s Daily Press Briefing at the White House it was evident that Tuesday’s planned release by Senate Democrats on the Intelligence committee about the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation techniques was going to be the focus of the bulk of the questions even a major cable network business reporter seated behind Newsblaze was focused on that topic rather than regular business news.

And he wasn’t the only business reporter taking that tack. As Earnest opened the press briefing with an announcement that a Bloomberg reporter helped out with the pool reporting during the President’s weekend doctor’s visit at Walter Reed he went right to the subject at hand “Let me ask you, obviously the key question today – we’re expecting the CIA torture report to come out this week. How well prepared does the President think U.S. embassies and foreign installations are for the potential reaction?”

Several times the White House Spokesman addressed it with reporters with the refrain of “And that’s why the administration has been at work for months now to prepare for this report’s eventual release; that there have been concerns that have been raised that have been validated by the intelligence community that indicate that the release of the report may have an impact on the security situation at U.S. facilities around the world, and that’s why this administration has been working for months to plan for this day and to ensure that the prudent steps are taken to protect American personnel and American facilities around the globe”

However the spin did not satisfy the members of the fourth estate such as ABC’s Johathan Karl who asked “But what does the White House believe on that question? Did they produce actionable intelligence? It’s just a yes or a no. Did he believe they actually – you can think the tactics were not – shouldn’t have been done, but did they – were they effective in any way?”

Karl wasn’t finished, amd in his last try with Earnest, he pointed out “were these techniques crucial to getting the intelligence that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden?” Karl pounced after Earnest’s response saying “You should have an answer right there at the tip of your [tongue]”

One other exchange which caught the attention of reporters at the briefing on interrogation techniques was a question by a reporter identified to Newsblaze as “Nadia” who asked “So what’s the difference between the harsh interrogation techniques and drones that kill civilians?”

The White House reacted to that by saying “Despite that commitment to transparency, there are still some limits about what I can say from here. But I can tell you that the President does want to be sure that as we execute the counterterrorism strategy that he has outlined that we are mindful of the impact that those strategies have on our ability to win hearts and minds.”

In other issues, the White House noted that its special adviser on the Ebola Crisis, Ron Klain, would be leaving in March at the end of a 130 day stint to return to the private sector. Klain had been working under “Special Government Employee” status which ends at the end of the 130 days The White House again reiterated a statistic they had brought up in past briefings noting that the number of facilities that can treat Ebola patients has gone up from three to thirty five. Earnest left the topic by saying “the question will be, will it require one individual to dedicate 100 percent of their time to focusing on this to continue the progress towards that goal. It’s still an open question now about whether that will be required.”

As to the President’s health scare on Friday, Earnest was pressed as to whether the 25th Amendment needed to be invoked in case the President was incapacitated. Ed Henry of Fox News noted “On the President’s health, some medical experts seem surprised that he got a CT scan. And you had said in I think the statement over the weekend, said it was convenient. Was there something else the doctor saw?” The President’s physician Dr. Jackson apparently concluded that the sore throat was consistent with some symptoms of acid reflux and that the President would be treated accordingly.

There was a humorous exchange in Monday’s Briefing, in which Earnest was talking about Interogation techniqes. He said, “What I do know is that the administration has been working closely with both members of the committee and the intelligence community to redact as much of that report as possible – I’m sorry, to declassify as much of that report as possible. (Laughter.) Wouldn’t make a lot of sense to redact that report.”

Josh Earnest will address reporters on Wednesday in the West Wing after the President returns from a trip to Nashville.

Randy Foreman is the NewsBlaze White House Correspondent, reporting from inside and outside The White House and around the beltway in Washington, D.C.