During the White House press briefing on Wednesday, Fox News reporter Ed Henry confronted Press Secretary Josh Earnest about the President Obama’s hypocrisy regarding enhanced interrogation techniques.
Henry pointed out that two members of Obama’s current national security team helped develop Bush’s enhanced interrogation policy and the fact that Obama’s drone policy is killing thousands of innocent civilians.
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Here’s a transcript via Truth Revolt:
Henry: Josh, following up on Jon’s questioning about John Brennan, you also have as the F.B.I. Chief, James Comey, who served in the Bush Justice Department and helped endorse the legal memo, the legal memo blessing waterboarding and other enhanced techniques. How could the President appoint John Brennan and James Comey to two of the most sensitive jobs in the administration C.I.A. and F.B.I if he believes they endorsed un-American tactics?
Earnest: Ed, I can tell you that Mr. Comey falls in the same category as Mr. Brennan in terms of somebody whose advice the President is pleased he can rely on to keep the country safe. Mr. Comey is someone who has a strong track record and there have been other instances even in his service in the previous administration where he stood up for and advocated for important civil liberties protections.
Henry: But you don’t see any contradictions that you’re attacking Bush administration policies but you have two of the architects of those policies serving —
Earnest: I don’t think it’s fair description of them, certainly of Mr. Brennan–
Henry: You don’t see any contradiction between them endorsing the policies the President is attacking and they now serve in two of the most sensitive—
Earnest: What I can tell you, Ed, is that the President of the United States has complete confidence in the professionalism of these individuals and he’s got complete confidence that these two individuals who serve an important leadership position on his national security team are following the law and doing everything that is necessary to protect the American people. And the President is pleased with their service.
Henry: Two days ago you directly said these policies did not make us safer. Former Vice President Cheney says that’s a crock and a bunch of hooey. How do you respond?
Earnest: This is not the first time and probably not the last that this administration strongly disagrees with the views articulated by Vice President Cheney. He’s also somebody who said the deficits don’t matter, he’s also somebody who’s predicted American troops would be welcomed as liberators in Iraq. He’s got not a particularly strong track record when it comes to articulating a policy this President believes is in the best interests of the country.
Henry: If Vice President Cheney has such a weak track record on those very issues, why does, as Jon says, why does this President’s, not President Bush, but this President’s C.I.A. director basically agree with Dick Cheney that these tactics saved lives? Your C.I.A. director agrees with him.
Earnest: For questions about Mr. Brennan’s position on these issues I would direct you to the C.I.A. They can explain them to you. I don’t think he would say that he agrees wholeheartedly with Vice President Dick Cheney. But again you should ask them.
Henry: They both say these programs save lives.
Earnest: Well again, I don’t think their views are the same.
Henry: You have repeatedly talked about moral authority. So can you explain how the President believes that it’s un-American to use these techniques, but it was okay to ramp up the drone policy and basically thousands of people around the world, innocent civilians, were killed? What’s the moral equivalency there? How do you have moral authority when innocent civilians are killed by drones?
Earnest: I think this is a difference here, Ed, and this is a stark difference in the way the United States conducts our policy and the way terrorists around the world conduct their policy. That there is significant care taken and there are significant checks and balances included in the system to ensure any counterterrorism action taken by the United States of America does not put at risk innocent lives.
Henry: But they do in the end. I understand there are safeguards, but in the end we see many cases around the world where U.S. drones have killed innocent civilians, despite those safeguards, so how do you have moral authority?
Earnest: What I am saying that is a stark difference from the tactics employed by our enemies who seek to use car bombs to actually target innocent civilians.
Henry: No one’s defending the terrorist tactics. But —
Earnest: But you are asking about moral authority. There is a very clear difference between the tactics used by terrorists and the counterterrorism tactics employed by the United States of America that go to great lengths to protect the lives of innocent civilians. In fact many of these terrorists that is we are talking about, again many of these counterterrorism activities that are used against terrorists are targeting terrorists that themselves have targeted local populations, that have targeted fellow Muslims in some situations. The efforts that are taken by this administration to limit or prevent innocent civilian casualties are consistent with our values and are consistent with our broader strategy for protecting the American people.
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