Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Wednesday May 4th, 2011
Read the transcript from the Wednesday 6 p.m. hour
Guests: Adam Schiff, Hisham Melhem, Sam Stein, Gary Ackerman, Michael
Isikoff , Katrina Vanden-Heuvel, Jonathan Capehart
CENK UYGUR, HOST: Good evening. I‘m Cenk Uygur, live from Los Angeles.
We‘ve got another controversy now.
Today, President Obama chose not to release the photos of Osama bin Laden‘s body. The president said, “It is important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool.”
He also said, “We don‘t trot out this stuff as trophies. We don‘t need to spike the football. The fact of the matter is you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again.”
Now, that‘s interesting, because that directly contradicts the CIA director, Leon Panetta, made yesterday in an interview with NBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR: The government obviously has been talking about how best to do this, but I don‘t think there was any question that, ultimately, a photograph would be presented to the public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So, of course that‘s opened up a question as to whether we should or should not see the pictures. Since President Obama is on one side, well, you want to guess which side Sarah Palin is going to go on? Believe it or not, she disagrees with the president. I didn‘t see that coming.
She tweeted, “Show photo as warning to others seeking America‘s destruction. No pussy-footing around, no politicking, no drama. It‘s part of the mission.”
A very ironic tweet given that she‘s politicking by saying that.
But look, others I take a little bit more seriously, like Lindsey Graham. Lindsey is the senator from South Carolina, of course, and he tweeted out, “The whole purpose of sending our soldiers into the compound, rather than an aerial bombardment, was to obtain indisputable proof of bin Laden‘s death.”
Actually, that was not a tweet. That was just a statement.
And look, that‘s not a bad point. The problem with the pictures from Abu Ghraib, for example, wasn‘t the pictures themselves. They caused us a lot of trouble, but it was because of what we did in the pictures.
In this case we killed a guy who killed nearly 3,000 Americans. Look, if it offends you to see him with a bullet in his head, you should have tried to talk him out of 9/11 a little earlier.
That‘s my take on it, but I want to bring in other voices now.
Joining me now is Congressman Adam Schiff. He‘s a Democrat from California. He serves on the Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, great to have you here.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you.
UYGUR: First, let me start—I mean, look, Saxby Chambliss, among others, who have said, look, this is obviously going to come out at some point.
Should we have just released the pictures now?
SCHIFF: Well, I think that the White House may very well have to revisit this if al Qaeda, for example, airs a stored video of bin Laden that will only give further fuel to the idea among conspiracy theorists that he wasn‘t really killed, that he is still alive. It elevates the myth of bin Laden.
I think people should see how he lived, the opulent life that he was living. And I also think that they should see that he‘s dead to put to rest any of these theories. I understand the White House has reservations. I have not yet seen the photos, but I think, ultimately, they may come around to the conclusion that this is necessary.
UYGUR: Right. And I understand that they are gruesome, but I don‘t think it necessarily inspires anyone.
I mean, it was not a secret that we were trying to kill bin Laden, right? And so if they see that he has in fact been killed, I don‘t know, you know, could it be a deterrent in some way as well?
SCHIFF: Well, I don‘t agree with Sarah Palin‘s analysis. I wouldn‘t do this as a way of showing if you cross us or you commit acts of terror, this is what happens to you. People know that already.
But I do think that there are so many conspiracy theories around the country, there‘s such a myth about Osama bin Laden, that showing that he is truly dead and gone has a value, to put that to rest, to show that this person wasn‘t larger than life. In fact, was very much brought down by U.S. military forces.
UYGUR: Right. Congressman Schiff, I actually totally agree with you.
Look, if you‘re just doing it to showboat, then that‘s not the right way to go, and that‘s not how the United States should conduct itself. But as evidence, I‘m with you and actually Senator Graham on this one. That is part of the reason we went on the ground, to get evidence that it actually was bin Laden.
Now, on to a different issue. There‘s a question as to whether this was a kill or capture mission. Let me give you a little video from Attorney General Eric Holder first, and then let‘s come back and talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: If he had surrendered, I think—attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that. But there was no indication that he wanted to do that, and therefore, his killing was appropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So what do you think about that? I mean, he‘s unarmed, yet we say he resisted.
Have you sorted out what that means?
SCHIFF: Well, I think, frankly, you know, you‘re talking about a very difficult raid, a nighttime raid. The last thing that we want to see is bin Laden take out American forces with some kind of a suicide bomb.
So there isn‘t a lot of time to think and analyze the situation. If it were clear he was surrendering and unarmed, that‘s one thing. But it‘s hard to imagine that being the circumstances given the urgency of the situation. So I think our Special Forces acted perfectly appropriately, and I think they probably recognized going in there was a minimal chance they would take him alive.
UYGUR: Do you have any insight, Congressman, into the orders that they were given before they went in as to how to execute them? For example, how would they have known that he was trying to surrender? Because it‘s all in the orders, of course.
And I‘m not criticizing here. I‘m just trying to find out if you have any insight into that.
SCHIFF: You know, nothing that I can discuss that wasn‘t gathered in a classified setting. I would just say that I fully approve of what our Special Forces did. I think they did a phenomenal job.
And if 9/11 was the story of not connecting the dots, the hunt and killing of bin Laden was the story of how our intelligence agencies worked together to connect the dots over a great period of time with considerable difficulty. But it is a phenomenal operation.
UYGUR: Yes, there‘s no question about that, as I‘ve said over and over on this program. I mean, it‘s hard to execute an operation better than this.
And it does go to one more question, Congressman Schiff, which is what now the GOP is very busy bringing up, while none of this operation could have existed if we hadn‘t tortured folks in the first place.
Where do you stand on that?
SCHIFF: I don‘t think you can say that definitively or otherwise. How can we determine what information we might have gathered had we used other processes? So I don‘t think you can point to this as support or opposition to forms of interrogation.
I think, frankly, the policy against waterboarding is sound, it doesn‘t require us to reexamine the facts here. And part of those facts are going to be unknowable, because we don‘t know what information we would have gotten had we used other techniques instead.
UYGUR: All right. Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you for your time.
We appreciate it.
SCHIFF: You bet. Thank you.
UYGUR: All right. Now let‘s bring in Sam Stein. He‘s a White House correspondent for “Huffington Post.” And Hisham Melhem. He‘s the Washington bureau chief for the Al Arabiya News Channel.
Welcome both, guys. Great to have you.
SAM STEIN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “HUFFINGTON POST”: Thanks for having us.
HISHAM MELHEM, AL ARABIYA NEWS CHANNEL: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right, Hisham, let me start with you.
Your network is reporting that bin Laden‘s 12-year-old daughter claims her father was captured alive, but then killed about 10 minutes later. Wow. Really? Do you stand by that reporting?
MELHEM: No, this is a report based on Pakistani sources. Obviously, unfortunately, the conflicting statements from the White House that he was killed initially in a firefight, and later on, he was unarmed when he was killed, are going to provide ammunition for those who like to maintain or perpetuate the myth of Osama bin Laden, that he was “captured and then executed.” And I think this is going to create some problem and confusion, because some people will try to discredit the American version of what happened.
Well, and Sam, Pakistan would seem to have some incentive to do so, having been incredibly embarrassed by this whole thing.
What‘s the White House reaction to these charges?
STEIN: Well, the White House has been trying to explain that they are getting information to the press and to the public as soon as they learn it. Obviously, there‘s been different narratives that have come out in successive days, and I think everyone has to take a deep breath and start digging a little bit more and waiting for more detail.
Obviously, they reject the notion that it was put forward by these Pakistani sources. Subtly or privately, they‘ll tell you that perhaps Pakistanis sources aren‘t the most reliable in this regard. And they stand by the idea that Osama bin Laden was resisting his arrest, so to speak, and that they had to fire on him.
Again, I think it‘s going to take a bit more journalistic elbow grease to finalize what exactly happened. And I wouldn‘t be surprised if the administration is forced to revisit its narrative once more.
UYGUR: Hisham, I want to talk about the photos as well.
The Taliban put out a statement. One of their officials said, “The Americans have not shown any credible evidence of Sheikh Osama‘s death.”
Now, on the other hand, if we did show the pictures, you know the conspiracy theorists would say it‘s not signed in the back, it has the wrong date on it, et cetera, et cetera. So, is there a way of appeasing those people? Or do we care about appeasing them?
Should we put out the pictures or shouldn‘t we?
MELHEM: I mean, I think the president decided not to release the photos because he knew that he would be subjecting himself to the howling of people who would say this is gory, graphic, insensitive, the United States is using it as a trophy, as you said.
On the other hand, you will have those people want to believe in the myth of Osama bin Laden who would say, this was doctored, there‘s no proof, anybody can doctor these images in Photoshop and all of that. And they would choose not to believe it.
Personally, I would have liked to see the picture, only because, as they say, more sunshine is better than none. But we don‘t have traditions in this country where we show pictures of photos of mutilated bodies, even in combat.
But obviously I would argue that in six months from now, the myth of Osama bin Laden will fade away completely. Al Qaeda, unfortunately, and the franchise of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Morocco, or whatever, will remain with us, unfortunately. But the myth of Osama bin Laden, his political discourse, will be behind us.
Already, the events in the Arab world, the so-called Arab Spring, has already transcended all that political discourse. And I think the timing of his physical demise was an opportune moment. And I think maybe the president decided that he‘s not going to be able to decisively put an end to this argument.
You know, Sam, there‘s also the possibility that they know that realistically, these pictures are going to come out. But if it comes out a couple weeks later, things have died down a little bit, it‘s not as heated, plus then it‘s not them. Oh, well, it leaked out. What could we do?
UYGUR: Am I being a little conspiratorial there or is that real politics?
STEIN: Not at all. That‘s real politics.
And I talked to a Democratic source very close to this White House who said basically the same thing. There‘s no misconception inside this administration that eventually, most likely, these photos are going to leak out. By not releasing them immediately, you give the president the benefit of the doubt of decrying the release and then confirming it and being sort of above it all.
I think this White House is probably prudent in not releasing it. As a journalist, I would actually hope that they did release it, because those pictures tell a whole other story. Think of the KSM pictures or Saddam Hussein‘s capture. Those are now (ph) in the story that we as journalists should be asking for.
But like you said, when the photos do eventually get released—and I‘m guessing they will—the president can then turn around and say, listen, I didn‘t want these being out there, they got out there, I wish they hadn‘t, but these are the photos.
UYGUR: I agree totally with that analysis.
One last thing. The conspiracy theories of course are not just in the Arab world or with the Taliban. They‘re also on Fox News. So I want to show you guys a video and get your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beyond the issue of whether the government is telling us the truth or pulling a fast one to save Obama‘s lousy presidency is the issue of the lawful power of the president to order someone killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without the picture, it‘s going to make people like me think maybe they actually did throw a bag over his head and get him down to club Gitmo and let Jack Bauer have at him with some jumper cables.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: I don‘t count anything out with this administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Hisham, what‘s got more conspiracy theories, the Middle East or Fox News?
MELHEM: No, no, no. Here, definitely. This is in Washington. I don‘t know on what planet these people live.
MELHEM: I mean, I don‘t know on what planet these people live.
That‘s all I can say.
UYGUR: All right.
Sam Stein with “The Huffington Post”—
STEIN: Thank you.
UYGUR: -- and Hisham Melhem with Al Arabiya News Channel.
Thank you both for joining us. Really appreciate it.
UYGUR: All right.
Pakistan‘s former president, Pervez Musharraf, speaks out on bin Laden‘s death and says he doubts the Pakistani army was harboring Osama bin Laden.
But new news out of Abbottabad makes that even harder to believe. And we‘ll share that news with you.
And what‘s the real reason that George W. Bush declined President Obama‘s invitation to join him at Ground Zero tomorrow?
And speaking of Bush, the debate over waterboarding heats up. Some Republicans insist it led to bin Laden. Well, we‘re not going to let them get away with that, because that ain‘t true.
Fact check, ahead.
UYGUR: Back in October of 2008, Senator John McCain went after then-candidate Obama for announcing his plan was to go into Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden, even if the Pakistani government wasn‘t on board.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: And Senator Obama, by saying that he would attack Pakistan—look at the context of his words, I‘ll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I‘ll get him. I know how to get him. I‘ll get him no matter what, and I know how to do it. But I‘m not going to telegraph my punches.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Well, back in 2008, Obama certainly telegraphed his punches, and on Sunday he delivered one of those punches.
Yesterday on the Senate floor, John McCain changed his tune.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: All Americans should feel proud and appreciative of the leadership shown by President Obama and his team on this matter. It took real courage to assume the many risks associated with putting boots on the ground, and I strongly commend the president for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Listen, you know candidates all the time say one thing and then they don‘t deliver. And I‘ve had my issues with President Obama on some of the candidate promises that he‘s made.
But boy, I can‘t remember an instance where someone has delivered on a campaign promise better than this. He said, “With or without the Pakistanis, we‘re going to go get bin Laden.” And that‘s exactly what he did.
All the credit in the world, and credit to John McCain for saying, hey, you know what? He was right and what they did turned out to be absolutely correct.
All right. We‘ll be back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, FMR. PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN MALE: He being there in the town of Abbottabad, it‘s surprising. It surprises me also.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: That was former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf telling Andrea Mitchell that he‘s surprised bin Laden was captured in the town of Abbottabad. Funny, because he shouldn‘t be. While Musharraf was president, the town was already drawing suspicion as a hideout for top al Qaeda operatives.
In December of 2003, Pakistani intelligence suspected al Qaeda‘s number three was hiding in a safe house in Abbottabad. Now, he wasn‘t found, but the location became “a sharp focus of intelligence agencies in Pakistan.”
In 2004, authorities arrested an Egyptian al Qaeda operative who was using Abbottabad as a base to plan attacks.
And as early as this year, ISI officers arrested an al Qaeda militant wanted for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings which killed more than 160 people. Where did they arrest him? I think you‘ve got it by now—
So, it seems a little hard to argue that finding a terrorist in Abbottabad would be surprising. It seems like it would be kind surprising if you didn‘t find one there. Pakistan claims that they are working diligently to root out these terrorists hiding in their country.
Now, look, here are two ways that they can prove that going forward. One, hand over the other terrorists that are surely there. Just do one sweep of Abbottabad and you‘ll probably get about a dozen or show.
Secondly, fire almost everyone at the top levels of your intelligence, because either they‘re complicit or they are the worst intelligence agency in the history of the world.
All right. Joining me live now is Representative Gary Ackerman.
He‘s a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman Ackerman, as you can tell, I‘m a little harsh there, but is there a way that Pakistan could make this up to us given that it appears they weren‘t really trying to find bin Laden, who was right underneath their nose?
REP. GARY ACKERMAN (D), NEW YORK: I think you‘re very justified.
There has to be a lot of anger and concern.
I‘ve been trying to raise that for years here about our relationship with Pakistan, that it‘s not what it appears to be, and that we‘re overpaying and not getting too many deliverables. And this seems to have proved that out in spades.
UYGUR: So, let me actually share what their prime minister said. He said, “There‘s an intelligence failure of the whole world, not just Pakistan alone.” That was, of course, Yousaf Raza Gilani, who‘s their prime minister.
Any truth to that? I mean, it seems like the intelligence failure seemed to be very specific to Pakistan, didn‘t it?
ACKERMAN: You know, it‘s like “Casablanca.” “Of all the lousy gin mills in this town, she had to walk into my mine.” Of all the lousy Abbottabads in this country, why did he have to hide out in mine? I didn‘t know there was gambling going on.
I mean, the whole thing is almost farcical. You know, this place is, like, 800 yards away from their West Point. It‘s a community that‘s filled with retired military officers.
The military is involved in private enterprises, or public enterprises, whatever you want to call them, that the government owns. They are government-owned enterprises which are shared by the military.
These guys have a stake in the game. These guys are all on the payroll. And it‘s not clear what the former military‘s relationship is and what kind of controls there are on them by the current government or the current military. But they‘re all in cahoots, and it‘s a very, very dangerous and volatile situation.
UYGUR: Now, Congressman Ackerman, to be fair, though, it is a complicated situation, because in the past they have worked with us. And it‘s unclear who is on our side and who‘s not on our side within the Pakistani government.
To give you a list of the folks that we did find in Pakistan, we did get Khalid Sheikh Mohammed there, of course, considered the operational mastermind of 9/11. We did get Abu Zubaydah. He was bin Laden‘s field commander.
We got Ahmed Khalfan Ghailanin there, suspected in the ‘98 embassy bombings. We got Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abu Faraj al-Libi, Umar Patek, and the list goes on and on. And they certainly didn‘t cooperate with us on some of those.
So, what‘s the game that‘s being played here? Because it seems like they didn‘t cooperate with us on bin Laden, but they did give us a lot of these guys.
ACKERMAN: Well, they have cooperated in many, many instances. And that‘s the problem here.
We are in a terrible relationship. Someone asked me today, “Is Pakistan a friend or not?” And, you know, the fact of the matter is countries don‘t have friends. We have interests.
And when it‘s in their interest to turn somebody over, they do it. When it‘s not in their interest, they pretend not to know or look the other way, which is likely is not—that‘s what‘s happened here. They pretended not to know.
And you‘re right. They‘re either completely incompetent or they‘re completely complicit. But not everybody.
We‘ve been paying $4 billion a year for this deal. The only problem is we‘ve not gotten everything we wanted because we haven‘t paid $4 billion to everybody in the country.
UYGUR: So, Congressman Ackerman, that goes to the heart of this matter. How do we now change their interests, right?
Because we don‘t what to let the country go entirely. You know, that probably doesn‘t help. On the other hand, you don‘t want to keep giving money to that intelligence agency which seems to be working with the other side so often. If you read the WikiLeaks stuff, I mean, boy, how many times have they ferreted terrorists back and forth?
So how do we change the incentive structure so we can get them completely on our side?
ACKERMAN: Well, we have to pay for what‘s in our interests and nothing more. You know, it‘s in our interests for them to have women‘s rights. It‘s in our interest for them to train their military to go after terrorists.
The last thing we want is the Pakistani Taliban to take over. Afghanistan, with the Afghan Taliban, or take over their country and then be in control of 100 nuclear weapons. That is not in our interest, and we have to make sure that that does not happen.
But to be blindsided and close one eye and say that they‘re our friends is just not the case. They will cooperate where they want to cooperate and will not cooperate where they don‘t want.
We have to make it very, very clear that we‘re going to act in our interests, as the president made sure we indicated today—last night and the other night. And we‘re going to continue to do those things. I‘ve been warning the Congress that it‘s very, very dangerous to just give them an open checkbook for anything they want, and that‘s really what‘s been happening.
UYGUR: Yes. And I remember for eight years, as we just kept trusting Musharraf to do the right thing, I was pulling my hair out. I mean, here‘s a guy that was not on the right side so often, and then this happened. So it‘s time for definitely a more nuanced strategy in Pakistan.
Representative Gary Ackerman, thank you for joining us tonight and pushing that strategy forward. We appreciate it.
ACKERMAN: Thank you.
UYGUR: Now, remember a few days ago when the news broke out, the spontaneous chants of “USA! USA!” That was a unifying moment, right? Wrong. Fox News found a way to blame liberals about those celebrations.
And speaking of Fox, the Republican spin machine is working overtime. They‘re making the case for waterboarding. Will they be able to rewrite history? And by the way, you will love Rumsfeld‘s flip-flop on this one.
UYGUR: Fox News has a problem. A guy thy called a super liberal, a socialist, in fact, wound up taking out Osama bin Laden.
Well, that doesn‘t fit their framing that liberals are soft on terror.
So what to do?
Well, they created a new talking point—liberals didn‘t like that we caught bin Laden and hated the celebration of it. Why? Because liberals are unpatriotic, of course.
A headline on the Fox Nation Web site reads, “Liberals Sickened by ‘USA! US!‘ Chants.” So that wasn‘t a liberal Web site. That was a conservative Web site pretending to speak for liberals.
And how about “Fox & Friends”? Of course they wanted to jump in on the fun, so they also bashed liberals, with our without the facts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a number of liberals who are outraged by those chants of “USA! USA!”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Petula Dvorak—liberals—says, “The
celebrations are vulgar.” David Sirota says, “We‘ve begun mimicking our
enemies when we cheer ‘Bloodshed.‘”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Of course columnist David Sirota went on to say that he didn‘t intend to compare Americans cheering bin Laden‘s death to people who cheered after 9/11. And while The Washington Post‘s Petula Dvorak wrote that she first thought the crowds on Sunday were a bit much, she goes on to write—listen to this -- ‘Yes, they deserve a night of wow, a confetti-in-the-streets moment of victory, a V-Day.”
Now, that doesn‘t exactly sound like an outraged liberal, does it?
She wanted confetti in the streets.
And how about the fact that the overwhelming majority—in fact, almost all the liberals in the country—were overjoyed with the news and had zero problems with the celebrations? Well, that would be inconvenient to the Fox narrative. And these guys say that the President Obama is such a big liberal, so I assume FOX Nation and FOX & Friends will come out tomorrow and say they give credit to our liberal president for being so tough and smart and doing what a republican president couldn‘t do. I‘m sure that‘s coming tomorrow, along with an apology for all the wrong assumptions that they pushed about liberals who turned out to be so much better at National Security than them.
All right. Now, coming up, Republicans are now saying there is no way we would have found Bin Laden without waterboarding. Of course. Well, we‘ll going to do a reality check on that next.
And the real story behind George W. Bush and why he declined President Obama‘s invitation to ground zero tomorrow.
And why is the so-called Bin Laden hunter, remember this guy, saying “show me the money”?
UYGUR: Republicans desperately spinning their wheels trying to convince us that we would not have found Uncle Bin Laden without waterboarding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: Initial information about the courier came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after waterboarding.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The bottom line is the enhanced interrogation techniques helped create an environment that gave rise to this information.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Anyone who suggests that the enhanced techniques—let‘s be blunt, waterboarding—did not produce an enormous amount of valuable intelligence just isn‘t facing the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: I love legal speak when he says it created an environment. Did we get the information from there? Nobody created an environment where we get information.
And Rumsfeld? Well, he is the evidence mission of truth must have changed since Monday. Since, two days ago, he said this.
“It is true, as I understand it, that some information that came from normal interrogation approaches in Guantanamo did lead to information that was beneficial in this instant. But it was not harsh treatment, and it was not waterboarding.”
So was it or was it not waterboarding, Don Rumsfeld? Well, when it‘s convenient, apparently you change your tune. But now to be fair, even though the Obama administration isn‘t sending a consistent message on this. Last night, CIA Director Leon Panetta hinted and interview with NBC‘s Brian Williams that waterboarding did have something to do with tracking down Bin Laden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Are you denying that waterboarding was in part among the tactics used to extract the intelligence that lead to this successful mission?
LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR: No, I think some of the detainees clearly were, you know, they use this enhanced interrogation techniques against some of the detainees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: But that‘s weird, because that same morning, Obama‘s Chief Counter Terrorism Adviser John Brennan sang a different tune.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: There is word out today that waterboarding played a very big role or a role in actually getting the information that was integral in finding Bin Laden. Is that the case?
JOHN BRENNAN, OBAMA‘S CHIEF COUNTER TERRORISM ADVISER: Not to my knowledge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: And “The New York Times,” reports that well, some of the Al-Qaeda suspects who provided evidence leading to Bin Laden were waterboarded, quote, they say, “A closer look at prisoner interrogations suggests that the harsh techniques played a small role, at most, in identifying Bin Laden‘s trusted courier and exposing his hide-out.” In fact, two of the waterboarded detainees including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed lied to their interrogators about the identity of the courier. Mohammed apparently gave up the courier‘s name months later (ph) under standard interrogation practices. And even Panetta‘s claim doesn‘t make much sense. Because listen to what John McCain of all people had to say after he received an intelligence briefing from Panetta.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: So far I know of no information that was obtained which would have been useful that by, quote, “enhanced interrogation.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So what‘s going on here? Is there any merit to this tortured word hypothesis? Or is this an attempt to rewrite history by the GOP to try to grab some credit for something they clearly did not do which is to capture Bin Laden?
Now, let me bring in NBC News national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff to help answer that question. Michael, great to have you here.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Great to be with you.
UYGUR: Yes. And I know you did some reporting on this. So, first, talk to me about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, when did he give up the courier‘s name and why is that relevant?
ISIKOFF: Look, there‘s so much misinformation about this. Let‘s be clear. There are only three CIA high-value detainees that were waterboarded. One of them was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He was waterboarded 183 times, he was subjected to the most extreme waterboarding and interrogations of all detainees in U.S. custody. And when he was asked about this Kuwaiti courier, he played down his significance, he described him as retired, he dismissed him as being relevant. Now, why that‘s important is that we now eventually the CIA was able to concluded, that the courier in question, Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, as he‘s described in some of this documents, was a protege of KSM. They were extremely close.
Some U.S. Intelligence even officials even thought they were related, although that doesn‘t seem to have been the case, but they were—had worked together for years. So when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after waterboarding dismisses Abu Ahmed and described him as retired, he‘s misleading the CIA, he is throwing them off the trail, he‘s got although he talked about a lot of things, and there‘s been a considerable debate about how valuable that intelligence ultimately was the one most valuable pieces of information he contained of all. The courier who could have leaded him to Bin Laden, he threw the CIA off.
I have one former FBI official tells me actually the facts here suggest that this was the most clear example of how waterboarding didn‘t work because it produced misleading information that through the CIA, at least initially off the trail.
UYGUR: Right. I mean, the whole point of waterboarding is supposed to be, OK, we tortured you, and they go, OK, OK, I give up, here it is. Abu Ahmed, he is the courier. In fact, he did the exact opposite. So it‘s startling that they would go in that direction. Let me give you a quote from a National Security Council spokesperson. He said, “There‘s no way that information obtained by enhanced interrogation techniques was a decisive intelligence that led U.S. directly to Bin Laden. It took years of collection and analysis for many different sources to develop the case that enabled us to identify this compound and reach a judgment that Bin Laden was likely to be living there. So, is this kind of a misdirection by political people to say, oh, look at the waterboarding, not much could have been in because.
ISIKOFF: Yes. I mean, look.
The facts do not bear up the waterboarding claim at all. You could argue that some other detainees who were subjected to abusive or enhanced interrogation did produce some minor bits of information, some details that were part of this composite, and I‘ve talked to a lot of intelligence officials who were involved in this process at this point and reviewed what the facts are. And it‘s very clear that there was no one decisive piece to this jigsaw puzzle. There was no blockbuster moment that led to the unraveling up this mystery. And certainly waterboarding doesn‘t seem to have played any role at all.
UYGUR: Right. Look, it‘s final thought from me is, people like Rove, who were saying, oh it was the waterboarding, even if they‘re right about their claims, that‘s like taking credit for two percent of the puzzle, and going, we should get the credit, when, as everybody else explains, even if they‘re right, 98 percent of the other stuff was the investigations of the intelligence and how they put it together, et cetera. And I don‘t even think they‘re right based on your reporting and the others.
ISIKOFF: Of course, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded in 2003, they didn‘t discover this guy‘s name, and finally figure out until 2007, four years later. So, that shows you the gap.
UYGUR: That‘s a great point.
UYGUR: That‘s exactly right. All right. NBC News national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff, thank you as always.
ISIKOFF: Sure. Thank you.
UYGUR: Now, Republicans are already trying to rewrite history when it comes to getting credit for Bin Laden‘s capture, we just told you. But there‘s a whole new layer to it. We‘ll explain that, next.
UYGUR: Gary Faulkner, the guy who has known as the Bin Laden hunter, is taking credit for Osama Bin Laden‘s death, I mean, he‘s even trying to get a piece of that $25 million reward. Faulkner made headlines last summer when he was picked up by Pakistani authorities trying to enter Afghanistan. He was found with pistol, night vision goggles and a samurai sword. That‘s awesome. He told authorities that he was on a mission from God to lop off Bin Laden‘s head. Today Faulkner took credit for the debt of Bin Laden, telling ABC News, quote, “I had a major hand and play in this wonderful thing, getting him out of the mountains and down to the valleys. I scared the squirrel out of his hole, he popped his head up and he got capped.” I‘m very proud of our government. They were handed this opportunity on a platter from myself.
Imagine if Bin Laden was actually scared, he‘s like, I have to get down to Abbottabad, I hear Faulkner is coming, he‘s got a sword. Now, in reality, Faulkner was detained 300 miles away from Bin Laden‘s compound, but he still plans to file a claim for a quarter of the $25 million award that was being offered for Bin Laden. Come on, is he not reasonable? He just wants a quarter of the money. Very reasonable guy. A U.S. official responded to Faulkner‘s nonsense saying, quote, “you don‘t get an A for effort.” Look, I don‘t he‘s going to be getting any of that money. But I like that he was trying when he seems that not many others work. And come on, who doesn‘t love the samurai sword? The guy came prepared. We‘ll be back.
UYGUR: It turns out getting rid of America‘s number one enemy does wonders for your poll numbers. In one poll, President Obama‘s approval rating jump 11 points from a month ago. In other poll found that 71 percent of people credit the president for the success of the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden. But that 28 percent you just can‘t move them. They say that he doesn‘t deserve credit.
All right. But former President Bush got some props, too. All of the country, a lot more poll rise on that one, fifty two percent of people think Bush deserve credit for the debt of Bin Laden, and 47 percent say, no way. Fifty two percent. Based on what? That‘s amazing but it shows that the GOP spin machine is already paying dividends. Prominent Republicans have been out there working the air waves, telling anyone who listen that the victory is actually Bush‘s. Look, that‘s what Republicans do. When a big event happens, they immediately start rewriting history to make themselves look good.
After 9/11, they said it wasn‘t Bush‘s fault, it was only nine months into his administration. So, it had to be Clinton‘s fault. But now, more than 27 months into Obama‘s administration, it turns out Bin Laden‘s death is all because of Bush. So something that happened on Bush‘s watch is not his fault, but something that happened on Obama‘s watch is something that he should get credit for. In their accounts, no matter what happens, Republicans are always right even if they‘re 100 percent wrong.
Joining me now is Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation magazine, and also with us is MSNBC contributor and editorial writer for the Washington Post Jonathan Capehart.
All right. Katrina, let‘s start with you. Bush gets credit for this?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, THE NATION: You know, I think this is a moment, Cenk, first, you know, sober reflection in this country, not about the who gets credit, who won. It‘s about the staggering costs of these last ten years, 46,000 soldiers maimed and wounded, hundreds of thousands of civilians, Pakistani, Afghani, Iraqi killed and the loss of our country‘s moorings as a nation and the commitment to liberties. But I think, you know, what may lead this country in a new direction, a new National Security direction is an awakening that OK, Bin Laden is dead and now we have no pretext for this mindless, senseless land wars as occupations which were not making us more secure, but just to step that with Bush, I mean, the exploitation of fear in this country did so much damage to our values, to our principles that to have this discussion about who won, who lost, who should take credit is almost an obscenity.
UYGUR: The problem here, Jonathan, is that the Republicans jump all over this stuff every single time. So, if you don‘t oppose them, they come in and say, well, on 9/11, I mean, later we found out that Bush set eyes, it‘s just swatting flies, I don‘t want to deal with it, he told the guy giving the briefing, you covered your ass, go home. He stayed on vacation. But they spun, spun, spun, until all of a sudden, Bush was a 9/11 hero. And he should get reelected because of 9/11. So, I mean, it seems like if you don‘t say, hey, wait a minute, what did Bush have to do with Bin Laden and getting him, they‘re going to claim that—and they‘re going to convince half the country, look at the poll numbers, that it was Bush.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, look, the poll was asked. The question was asked of people who do they think should get credit. I think President Obama getting a lion‘s share of the credit is the result of the fact that he‘s the president, he‘s the guy in office. He‘s the guy who signed the order for this very daring, gutsy operation that led to the killing of an evil mastermind. I think the 52 percent of people who think that President Bush should get credit, you know may be they‘re looking at something, looking at in the way that I‘m looking at it, not so much who should get credit or whether President Bush get credit, but I think we‘re looking at men and women across two administrations who worked day and night to find this guy, and to either capture or kill him. And in this case he was killed. And in that case, you know, if I were asked that question, I would, you know, ask for a different question to say, you know, do I think that the federal government that both administrations deserve a pat on the back for this? And I would have to say, yes. I mean, I do think.
HEUVEL: But Cenk, wait a minute, here‘s the thing.
CAPEHART: Let me finish my thought in here, OK.
UYGUR: Here‘s why I say no to that.
HEUVEL: But I mean, you have an administration that took us into a war on a pretext of weapons of mass destruction. You have an administration, the Bush administration, which put innocent lives into battle for a lie, and that must be remembered, and they exploited fear as the master narrative through a global war on terror. You don‘t fight in order to tactic terrorism to military means. We have a hyper militarized national terrorism industrial security state now, and President Obama who gave a very sober speech on Sunday night, speaking to the best impulses of this country‘s nature, has not been able to dismantle that. And yes, liberals, progressives, people of conscience are disappointed.
He tried to close Guantanamo. He tried to hold civilian court hearings, not military commissions, and what happened? You had a Bush/Cheney administration firing back on all cylinders with misinformation, and then you had the Obama administration which didn‘t fight harder to say, we can be secure without undermining the values of this country, and I just think it‘s an obscenity again to talk about who takes credit because too many lives have been lost. And what we didn‘t need to go to war on it.
CAPEHART: And on that point, Katrina, I agree with you.
UYGUR: No, but Jonathan, in fact, maybe I disagree with both of you guys. Jonathan, let me build on Katrina‘s earlier point. Which is look, the politics, who cares? What I care about is the policy, right? And if you say, hey listen, the Republicans should get credit for starting two words in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that lead to the Bin Laden thing or they should get credit for the torture and that led to the Bin Laden intelligence, well, you greatly misled the country? And then the people will think, well, OK, well, I guess we should torture again or I guess we should go into Afghanistan again, or we should go in Iraq again. That‘s why it matters.
CAPEHART: But the question that was asked of those people in those polls weren‘t about policy. It was about politics. Who do you think should get credit? There was no, you know, cross-tab of OK, what about waterboarding? What about Guantanamo? What about these other things?
UYGUR: But Jonathan, if you give them credit, I mean, on what basis do you give the Bush administration credit when they didn‘t do it for eight years. And instead, they went in the wrong direction. I‘m afraid if you give them credit, it misleads the country, and then goes, well, I don‘t know, everybody called it even. They said, Bush did something right. Obama did something right. So, I guess we do wars, I guess we do torture, and I guess we play it smart. No, they only played smart, that should be the answer that we get out of this. That‘s why it matters.
CAPEHART: Well, Cenk, what I‘m talking about is you have people working within the Obama administration who were there during the Bush administration, case in point Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and so that‘s why I‘m trying to get away from, you know, President Obama gets credit or President Bush gets credit. There are people, men and women within the government who worked, span both administrations who worked their buts of to get this done and they got it done. And I think that should we be focus.
HEUVEL: Cenk, could I just say.
UYGUR: We‘re out of time. We‘re out of time.
HEUVEL: I do think President Obama now has political capital and the space to begin to draw down this war in Afghanistan. And it is that neutralization of this republican advantage, the silliness about being soft on terror or defense, which has inflicted Democrats, which should come to an end.
UYGUR: All right. I hear you guys, and Jonathan, don‘t get me wrong, yes, picking Gates is the right idea by Bush, I do give him credit for that. It depends on what the issue is. All right. We‘ll be right back.
UYGUR: Look, throughout these last couple days we‘ve been talking a lot about the raid that President Obama ordered on Bin Laden‘s compound, but I want to talk to you a little bit about something that others are not mentioning. There was apparently according to different sources, about 18 to 37 people in that compound, not just Bin Laden and his couriers. Associated Press says that there were 23 children and nine women in there. Now, yesterday we talked about how President Obama made a decision to go in with a surgical attack team instead of doing a bomb from a cruise missile or B-2, et cetera. And I want to talk to you about why I think that deserves so much credit.
Now, yesterday we talked about, hey, look, you want to make sure that it‘s Bin Laden, et cetera, et cetera, but those are actual 23 kids, if the report from the Associated Press is right, and if we had done a bomb, they would be dead today. And I don‘t know how much of a role it played in President Obama‘s decision to go in there with a tactical team instead, but those guys are brave. And they sign up for those kinds of missions. And they did a great job here. And those 23 kids and those nine women are alive today, because we chose the stronger, smarter, more strategic way of carrying out that operation.
Now, the flip side to that is, my God, Osama Bin Laden, who had to realize that that compound could be annihilated at any second had all those kids and all those women in there, it‘s amazing how little he cares for life. Many think, of course, he did 9/11, I know that, but you would think he would care a little bit more about the people that he‘s close to. If I thought there was any chance, a one percent chance that I was going to be targeted, I wouldn‘t want my kids or any kids within a 20-square mile perimeter of that place. And therein lies the difference. I know it‘s an obvious point, but it‘s one that‘s not discussed much. We care, we care even if it‘s his kids, and he doesn‘t care, even if it‘s his kids. And that‘s why we have the difference between us and Al-Qaeda.
All right. I just wanted to make that point. Thank you for much watching, everybody. “HARDBALL” starts right now.
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