Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 5/4/2011By USGOV
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
2:10 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Before I take your questions I'd just like to say to you that the President has made the decision not to release any of the photographs of the deceased Osama bin Laden. And rather than — or rather, first I will give you the language the President used when he was recently interviewed about an hour ago to explain his decision.
This is in an interview with CBS 60 Minutes, Steve Kroft. The President was asked — he said that they were discussing — when bin Laden’s body was taken out of the compound, the President was asked about how they knew it was him. And he said:
“When they landed, we had very strong confirmation at that point that it was him. Photographs had been taken. Facial analysis indicated that, in fact, it was him. We hadn’t yet done DNA testing, but at that point we were 95 percent sure.”
Question: Did you see the pictures?
The President: Yes.
Question: What was your reaction when you saw them?
The President: It was him.
Question: Why didn’t you release them?
The President: We discussed this internally. Keep in mind that we are absolutely certain that this was him. We've done DNA sampling and testing and so there is no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden. It is important for us 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. That's not who we are. We don't trot out this stuff as trophies.
The fact of the matter is this was somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received, and I think Americans and people around the world are glad that he is gone. But we don't need to spike the football. And I think that given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk — and I've discussed this with Bob Gates and Hillary Clinton and my intelligence teams, and they all agree.
Question: There are people in Pakistan, for example, who say, look, this is all a lie. Obama — this is another American trick. Osama is not dead.
The President: The truth is that we were monitoring worldwide reaction. There is no doubt that bin Laden is dead. Certainly there is no doubt among al Qaeda members that he is dead. And so we don't think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference. There are going to be some folks who deny it. The fact of the matter is you will not see bin Laden walking on this Earth again.
That's the conclusion of the excerpt. I think it states rather thoroughly why the President made the decision that he did.
With that, I'll take your questions.
Q Thanks, Jay. Based on those comments, the President made a very compelling case why not to release the photos. So what was the internal debate, and was he ever seriously considering releasing photos?
MR. CARNEY: Well, obviously the photos didn’t exist until bin Laden was killed, so there’s not a great deal of time between then and the decision. There are obviously arguments to be made on either side. The fact of the matter is, as the President described, these are graphic photographs of someone who was shot in the face — or the head, rather — and it is not in our national security interests to allow those images, as has been in the past been the case, to become icons for — to rally opinion against the United States.
The President’s number one priority is the safety and security of American citizens at home and Americans abroad. There is no need to release these photographs to establish Osama bin Laden’s identity. And he saw no other compelling reason to release them, given the potential for national security risk, and further, because he believes, as he said so clearly, this is not who we are.
Q So was he, in the time period you're discussing, the moment he had the photos until now that we know the answer, was he grappling with this at all? Or was his stance clear and he was just gathering other opinions?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t know about the evolution of his decision-making process. When I’ve heard him discuss it, he held this opinion very firmly. And he has held that opinion very firmly. But this is a very short period of time. Obviously he wanted to hear the opinions of others, but he was very clear about his view on this. And obviously his decision is categorical.
Q One other question. Director Panetta, in one of the interviews he did yesterday, said, “The government obviously has been talking about how best to do this, but I don’t think there’s — there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public.” How do you explain that?
MR. CARNEY: What I would say is that there are compelling arguments for, in general, the release of information and there’s a discussion to be had about the pros and cons. And the President engaged in that discussion and made a decision. Every member of the national security team is aware of and expressed the downside of releasing, which has I think weighed heavily on the President in terms of the potential risks it would pose to Americans serving abroad and Americans traveling abroad.
So the idea that this is 100 percent obvious — I mean, that’s — the fact of the matter is, the President never gets to make a decision that’s 100 percent obvious because those kind of decisions never get to his desk.
Q Well, that I understand, but I’m saying his comment was there was no question that a photograph would be released — obviously that was wrong.
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, the thing is the President made this decision. He consulted members of his national security team. There’s reasonable arguments to be made. The President felt very strongly and made the decision he made.
Q Jay, you talked yesterday a lot about firefight. Who was it that was shooting back at the U.S. commandos?
MR. CARNEY: We have, as you know, since the moment this operation became public been as helpful as we can be to provide as much information as we can. And in terms of the operational details, we have gotten to the point where we cannot cross lines because of the necessity for preserving the methods and operational techniques and capabilities of the kinds of forces that were used in this case. We’ve gone to the limit of our ability to do that and still maintain some of the things we need to maintain and be kept secret.
So that's a long way of beginning my answer to say that we’ve revealed a lot of information. We’ve been as forthcoming with facts as we can be. A lot of information came out quickly. When we needed to clarify some of the information that we had as more information came in, we’ve provided that. But in terms of further details of the operation, I don't have any for you. You’re welcome to obviously consult with the Defense Department about them, but I don't have any more information. I’m not going to discuss beyond what I’ve said already the operational details.
Q But some things, as you acknowledged yesterday, have changed as the information came in. Is the fact of a firefight solid?
MR. CARNEY: You heard the account that I read yesterday, and that is information that I provided. And I’m not — I’m just simply saying I’m not going further than that.
Q Okay, I guess I’m just curious about you mentioned –
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to go further than what I said yesterday. So we can talk about — we can ask a lot about operational details. The answer to your question is certainly contained within the account I read yesterday. But we’re at a point where we need to be mindful of the necessity to protect our ability in the future to go after other bad guys, perhaps in the same way we went after this one. And some of the capacities that we have, the methods that we use need to be protected and not compromised.
Q Let me ask one follow-up question. Are you concerned that the way in which bin Laden was killed and buried at sea might hurt the President’s ability to reach out to the Muslim world as he has tried to over the last two years?
MR. CARNEY: The efforts that were made to give Osama bin Laden an appropriate burial, following Islamic precepts and traditions, were considerable. However, I would also say that there is nothing — the respect that was shown to him and his body was far greater than the respect that Osama bin Laden showed to the victims on 9/11 or any of his other victims, and that’s because that’s who we are. So we feel very comfortable with the fact that we took extraordinary measures to show that respect to the traditions of the Islamic faith.
Q But my question is about the President’s specific outreach to the Muslim world. How does this affect that?
MR. CARNEY: I think you heard the President speak on Sunday evening about the unbelievably important fact to make clear, that President Bush made clear before President Obama, that our efforts in the fight against terrorists, against al Qaeda, are not aimed at Islam, are not aimed at Muslims. And the fact is, that the cooperation and assistance provided by Muslims around the world is essential to our fight and it’s not about them, because Osama bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer — a mass murderer of people around the world, including Muslims.
So we obviously believe that we were absolutely within our rights to go after the most wanted man in the world, the most wanted terrorist in the world — the man who ordered the attacks on so many Americans and killed so many Americans. And we — it needs to be recognized that this is seen as a good thing throughout the world. And yet, because of who we are, we took extraordinary measures to show the kind of respect that was shown in his burial.
Q What do you say to the families of the victims of 9/11 and the USS Cole and other terrorist acts by al Qaeda if these family members say they want the photo released so they can have some closure? What’s the White House’s response to that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not going to go beyond the words of the President, and I will rephrase them to say that there is no question at all that Osama bin Laden is dead. He will not walk this Earth again. We have established beyond any doubt, through DNA evidence, facial recognition, visual recognition, the naming of him by individuals on that compound, that Osama bin Laden was shot and killed on Sunday night. He is dead. And that — I think Americans feel a great sense of closure because of that.
Q Is there any other — I understand the photographs are off the table. Is there any other evidence of his death that might — that you’re still considering releasing, the President is still considering releasing? Whether it’s video of his burial at sea, whether the DNA evidence — is there anything else that could be released?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I will simply say that we are — that this decision applies to all visual evidence. And in terms of discussions that might be had to go into more detail about how the DNA evidence was analyzed and collected, how the facial recognition evidence was analyzed and collected, and how the experts reached their conclusion that this was without any shred of doubt Osama bin Laden, I’m sure that information might be made available or will be made available in the future. But this decision that I cited that the President made has to do with the visual evidence, the photographic evidence.
Q Lastly, the CIA Director, Leon Panetta, said in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill about the Pakistani government, that they either were involved or are incompetent. Is that the position of the White House?
MR. CARNEY: I assume you mean by a closed-door briefing a classified briefing? I have no comment.
MR. CARNEY: Chip. Oh, sorry, Dan.
Q I just want to clarify, you said that the President, based on your observations, had always held the position that these photos should not be released?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t know — I just meant that we’re now two and a half days since this took place, that I know he had this — I heard him express this view yesterday. But there was still — he was gathering the thoughts and views of others on his team. So “long held” is an impossible statement to make since we’re only talking about a couple of days.
Q But is this a sense that he had made up his mind and wanted just to open it up for opinions to sway him as to whether or not they should be released?
MR. CARNEY: The President has a national security team, and he wanted to hear the opinions of others, obviously. That’s how he makes decisions in this White House, and he wants to hear, as he did with the decision to authorize this mission, which I think has been reported was not a decision that every member of his team supported or thought was — people had reservations, obviously, because it was a very risky mission. But this is the process that he undertakes because he believes that that’s the way he wants his presidency to function. He wants the unvarnished opinions and advice and assessments of his top advisors. And in a situation like this, the last thing he wants is a bunch of people telling him what they think he wants to hear.
Q Can you give us a sense of whether or not it was the majority opinion of those who were giving him advice that the photos should not be released?
MR. CARNEY: It was a majority opinion, yes.
Q And also, can you give us anything more about this team that will be going to, I guess, brief former President Bush?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any information on that.
Q Thanks, Jay. I know you said you didn't want to get into operational details, but you kind of opened the door.
MR. CARNEY: But you can try.
Q But you kind of opened the door on one thing. You said that he was shot in the face, and then you corrected yourself and said “rather the head.” Were you saying that he was not shot in the face?
MR. CARNEY: No, no, I simply — he was shot above the neck. Let’s say that.
Q We would rather go with head if we’re given the choice, but you’re not saying it was –
MR. CARNEY: I’m not — I don't have any details to give you on that.
Q Why has the President decided not to speak at Ground Zero tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: The President thinks it’s entirely fitting and appropriate to visit the site of Ground Zero in the wake of this significant and cathartic moment for the American people. And he wants to lay a wreath to honor the victims, to honor the first responders who so courageously rushed to the scene and, in many cases, gave their own lives to try to save others; to honor the spirit of unity in America that we all felt in the wake of that terrible attack. I think the power of that requires no words. And he will also meet with families of the victims and first responders in private.
Q Was there a debate on whether to speak and, to use his expression, was there concern that it would look like spiking the ball?
MR. CARNEY: Don't forget the President — no, there wasn’t a debate, but the President did speak on Sunday night and a remarkably large audience in this country, a remarkable number of Americans saw him speak because the word traveled so fast about this monumental event that had occurred. And so, no, there was no debate.
Q A quick question on the New York Times/CBS poll. His approval rating jumped 11 points from 46 to 57, but at the same time, his approval on the economy is the lowest ever in this poll, 34 percent. If you could just comment on if you think there’s any significance to all that.
MR. CARNEY: I think that the country is still emerging from the worst recession since the Great Depression. I think that gas prices have weighed heavily on Americans as they try to make ends meet. And it’s entirely understandable why that sentiment is out there because people are struggling. And people, in the case of how they’re dealing with these high gas prices, are suffering.
So that’s — we are fully aware of that. And that’s why this President, I think you will see, will continue his focus on growing the economy, creating jobs, on working with Congress to pass legislation that does that; working with Congress to take measures that reduce our deficit, that invest in those areas that allow us to grow, allow us to compete; make sure that we educate our kids so we can be competitive in the 21st century.
He doesn’t — I mean, the remarkable thing to me, watching — being on the inside now, is — you always hear this, right — is that the train never stops. The speed, the rapidity of events, and the demands are so great. And what we’ve seen in these historic times since the President came into office is that that has been the case and then some.
And his focus on the economy has not wavered, even as he has dealt very quietly, with only a select number of people, with this mission from its inception to its execution. And that focus will continue. There’s no — the two things that he thinks about the most, the security of the American people and the economic security of the American people, at the same time. And so that’s — the economy continues to be a major priority.
Q We’re hearing more and more lawmakers are seeing the bin Laden photo or photos. To be clear, are they just being shown the photos, or are there copies floating around the Hill?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of any photos being — floating or being shown.
Q Bin Laden — Sunday when the raid happened, was there any opportunity for U.S. officials to question him before he was shot?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to get into operational details about — beyond what we’ve done. I mean, what I’ve said in the past yesterday is what I would say today. So what happened on Sunday night is that an incredibly courageous team of U.S. personnel entered a foreign country in darkness on an incredibly risky mission, executed it at great risk to their own personal safety, executed that mission with great professionalism, and accomplished a goal that this country had sought for nine and a half years, in a mission that dramatically minimized collateral damage and civilian casualties, that was pulled off without any casualties among American personnel, and it resulted in the bringing to justice of Osama bin Laden. We have enormous regard for what was accomplished on Sunday by those men.
Q They’re American heroes. I just didn’t know if they got a question in before –
MR. CARNEY: Again, I would just refer those questions to the Defense Department.
Q Last question real fast. Any attempt by American officials to interview, question bin Laden’s wife who was there at the scene?
MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of, but you might ask the State Department that.
Q Are there any U.S. officials involved in the questioning of anybody else at that compound?
MR. CARNEY: I think that goes to that, what Mike just asked, and I don’t have an answer. We obviously cooperate and have an important relationship with Pakistan and with the Pakistani government. But I don’t have any information with which to answer that question.
Q Are they sending briefings of their interrogation?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don't — I just don't know, so — I don't have an answer.
Q Is there going to be an updated narrative on what you read yesterday?
MR. CARNEY: I think I made pretty clear that we have provided a great deal of information, and have made an effort to get that information to you very quickly. The nature of this operation and the rapidity with which we tried to respond to the desire for — understandable desire for information about it has meant that we needed to clarify some facts. But I don't have any more operational details for you.
Q Are you done clarifying? This is it? This is the final narrative?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any more operational details for you.
Q And this is final? Will we have any –
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don't draw any lines like that. It would be foolish to. But I don't — we don't have any information for you today. I think we’ve provided a great deal of information for you about that operation. Our focus and I think most people’s focus is on the remarkable nature of what was accomplished, the fact that it was done with no American casualties and very limited collateral damage, and done in a way that we could be entirely sure that Osama bin Laden had been brought to justice.
Q Actually, one more on the issue of 9/11 families. Given that many members of Congress are being shown this photo, if they ask to see the photo under some circumstance that would not be public but for them, if they ask for that opportunity, would the administration be open to giving them that opportunity?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have an answer to that right now.
Q Jay, may I follow up?
MR. CARNEY: Let me go to Jared.
Q I spoke on I believe it was Monday with the chairman of the 9/11 Commission. He said one of the glaring recommendations that hasn’t been implemented yet is giving — or freeing up radio spectrum for the first responders. Where does the administration stand on that — so the first responders can communicate amongst each other when –
MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to take that question, Jared, I just don’t know.
Q And then, I know you answered this, but can you clarify — you said no visual evidence at all is going to be released, including video or anything of that –
MR. CARNEY: That’s right.
Q Okay. That’s all.
MR. CARNEY: I mean, visual record of Osama bin Laden’s death or his deceased body.
Q And then just one on a different topic, if you don’t mind. Does the administration have any expectations — or what expectations does the administration have for the meeting tomorrow that Biden is hosting with congressional leaders?
MR. CARNEY: Look, I think this is the beginning of an important process. The President, by appointing the Simpson-Bowles commission, by putting forward the plan he did at George Washington University for his vision for reducing our deficit in a balanced way while investing in the essential priorities of government to allow us to grow and allow us to create jobs — he has now taken this step to move this process forward because he believes that we’re at an important point here where Republicans and Democrats alike share — recognize the problem — that’s important — and they agree that it exists. They share the same end goal, which is $4 trillion in deficit reduction. And they share the same general idea of what the timeline should be, 10 to 12 years.
This created the potential for a bipartisan compromise on some of this, at least. And that’s what this process we hope will launch on Thursday. And so we — I don’t want to — there will be no announcement after that meeting that a deal has been reached, because this is a process. But we expect progress to be made.
Q I’m just wondering, just trying to get some clarity here. Why did the narrative released yesterday not mention bin Laden’s son? Was he killed in the raid?
MR. CARNEY: You’re — this is the kind of thing that I’m trying not to, first of all, go beyond what I said yesterday, and secondly, to — what I would just say is that for questions like that I refer you to the Defense Department and they may be able to get an answer for you.
Q Because John Brennan on Monday gave one name, and it turns out that –
MR. CARNEY: Okay, I think this has been made clear. This is an important point. The transcript — he gave a name; it is the correct name. Unfortunately, when the transcript was listened to and put on paper an error was made in transcribing that name. John Brennan’s — I think we’ve corrected that and what he said was accurate.
Q And was any other person, dead or alive, taken from the compound and transported from the scene by –
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q — U.S. personnel? Okay. And then on tomorrow, is there a — does the President have concern about possibly exploiting 9/11 families? Does he want to keep some of this private? What can we expect –
MR. CARNEY: He’s meeting in private with 9/11 families.
Q So I mean, is there any in public –
MR. CARNEY: In private.
Q Okay. So –
MR. CARNEY: No press.
Q Okay. So what are the public events then tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: He’s going to the World Trade Center site and laying a wreath in public. I mean, that will be –
Q Why did he decide to make these meetings all private tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think you said so in your question. I mean, you suggested why that would be the case. It’s about — he wants to meet with them and share with them this important and significant moment — a bittersweet moment, I think, for many families of the victims. And he thinks it’s appropriate to do that in private.
Q Why did he want to invite President Bush? And what is lost by President Bush not being there?
MR. CARNEY: President Obama wanted to invite and did invite President Bush because as he’s made clear on Sunday night and we’ve made clear, that this is a moment of unity for Americans and a moment to recall the unity that existed in this country in the wake of the attacks on 9/11. And he wanted to — he invited President Bush because he had hoped that if President Bush were able to come that he would join the President in visiting the World Trade Center site. We completely understand that he’s not able to come, but the invitation was made in that spirit.
Q And to follow on Ben’s question earlier, when CIA Director Panetta spoke both to NBC and to lawmakers on the Hill, he was pretty clear that it was a question of when, not if, the photos would be released. So was he misinformed, or was he overruled? And what –
MR. CARNEY: The decision — a final decision had not been made.
Q So he spoke out of line, out of turn?
MR. CARNEY: The President made a decision. It was — there are obviously arguments to be made on each side of this, but the final decision was not made until today.
Q So he was wrong?
MR. CARNEY: The final decision was not made until today.
Q What time?
MR. CARNEY: This morning. I don't have — I don't remember precisely. I didn't look at my watch.
Q You were with him when he made the decision?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Can I clarify just one thing? When you talk about the President’s role tomorrow in New York, are you ruling out that he’ll make some comments, perhaps even informal ones?
MR. CARNEY: There’s no plan for him to speak at the wreath-laying ceremony. His events with the families and first responders are in private. I don't — as was the case the other day when he didn't speak at the Cabinet meeting, I obviously don't — he’s not a robot, and he could potentially speak at some point tomorrow, but there are no plans for that.
Q Okay, thanks.
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Thanks, Jay. Has the President spoken to anyone on the team that carried out the mission?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any information for you on that at this point.
Q Do you know if anyone in the White House has? Mr. Brennan?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it depends. The team is a big — it’s not just those men who went into Pakistan. There’s an obviously bigger network that represents the team, the operation team. And I just — I’m not sure. I mean, there is the head of Special Forces who obviously has spoken to members of the administration and he’s very much part of the team. So I don’t have any information about more contact.
Q The U.N.’s top human rights official said yesterday that she hoped the administration would release full details about the operation in order to settle any questions about whether it was legally justifiable. Does the administration feel or have any plans that it needs to say anything more about how the operation was carried out, the rules of engagement, to justify the action that happened on –
MR. CARNEY: Well, let me address that question and I’ll — forgive me, I’m going to read so I’m very precise here.
The team had the authority to kill Osama bin Laden unless he offered to surrender; in which case the team was required to accept his surrender if the team could do so safely. The operation was conducted in a manner fully consistent with the laws of war. The operation was planned so that the team was prepared and had the means to take bin Laden into custody.
There is simply no question that this operation was lawful. Bin Laden was the head of al Qaeda, the organization that conducted the attacks of September 11, 2001. And al Qaeda and bin Laden himself had continued to plot attacks against the United States. We acted in the nation’s self-defense. The operation was conducted in a way designed to minimize and avoid altogether, if possible, civilian casualties. And if I might add, that was done at great risk to Americans. Furthermore, consistent with the laws of war, bin Laden’s surrender would have been accepted if feasible.
That’s my response. Yes.
Q Two questions. Thanks, Jay. One, what President Obama did on Sunday, he became hero around the globe because he gave relief to the millions of people, including in India. India was the victim for the last 20 years of this terrorism. Also, my question is, when President spoke with President Zardari, what was the reaction from Pakistan as far as — and other leaders that he has spoken to — what are they saying now inside Pakistan?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think — I don’t want to speak for the Pakistani government, and I think in terms of our analysis of the reaction within Pakistan, I’d point you to the State Department.
The President of Pakistan obviously wrote an op-ed the other day. I think you can glean some information from that. And in terms of other leaders, the President did speak with a number of leaders from around the world and they all congratulated the United States on this accomplishment, bringing to justice Osama bin Laden. But I don’t have any other characterization to give you.
Q Why I ask that, for the last 10 years this is what I’ve been saying here and the White House and the State Department and the Pentagon that Osama is living and protected by the Pakistani intelligence and military and living like a maharaja. And you can see on Sunday what the whole world saw, how his lifestyle was there inside Pakistan. So don’t you think now Pakistan has to — so many questions have to answer to the international community and to the United States and also millions of people that he has been –
MR. CARNEY: What John Brennan said and what I’ll repeat is that we obviously are interested in finding out the details of the support network that obviously helped Mr. bin Laden hide in Abbottabad. We don’t know the members of that support network. We also note that the Pakistani government has launched an investigation of its own, and we think that’s a good thing. And we will work to find out as much as we can about how that happened.
I would then further state that our relationship with Pakistan, while complicated, is very important, and it is very important precisely because of our need to continue the fight against al Qaeda, to continue the fight against terrorists. The fight is not done, and we look forward to cooperating with Pakistan in the future. As others have said, more terrorists have been killed on Pakistani soil than probably any other country. And the cooperation we’ve received from Pakistan has been very useful in that regard.
Q And second if I may –
MR. CARNEY: I think that's third, but okay.
Q Thank you. What President said Sunday was good that war is not against Islam or the Muslims. But my question is that in order to bring Muslim community, including in the U.S., because they are saying that they are being targeted, and Congressman King’s also had hearings on Muslims. Don't you think there is now time for President to speak globally to the Muslim people that –
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any announcements for other speeches. I’ll let the President’s statement on Sunday stand for itself.
Yes. How are you?
Q Hi, Jay. Can you clarify, has the President indicated to you in any way that he wants you to stop giving out any clarifications or information?
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q Or that he wants DOD to stop? Because you’re directing us in that spirit –
MR. CARNEY: My point is simply — this is just to make the point that we’ve provided a great number of details. I don't have any new details for you to provide. And there are issues here. I mean, a lot of you people understand, a lot of the reporters here have covered and written about or done pieces on special operations and the kinds of operations that we’re talking about here, and there are equities we need to protect. It would be extremely foolhardy for us to divulge information in the recounting of what happened on Sunday that would in some way — in any way limit our capacity to perform a similar operation in the future.
We’re not done going after terrorists. Would that we were, but we’re not.
Q So are you suggesting that to answer Jake’s question or any of these questions today would harm national security, compared to the details that you were giving out for the last two days? Is that what you’re saying?
MR. CARNEY: I think that we have given out a great number of details. I don't have any more details for you. You can certainly ask the Defense Department for more details. But I think the — the point here is that we’ve divulged an extraordinary amount of information about this operation, and we don't want to divulge any information that would impede our capacity to launch a similar operation in the future.
And I think that's entirely reasonable. I think, again, that the level of detail and the amount of information has been rather extraordinary. And there has to be –
Q But you have to clarify –
MR. CARNEY: And we did. And there has to be –
Q So can’t we keep doing that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, no. I mean, you can ask, but the point is, is that I don't have any clarifications for you. What I said yesterday stands. And I clarified a couple of points. And the problem is, is that if we engage in this kind of thing, it leads to those areas that unwittingly could have the divulging of information that would limit our capacity to do this kind of operation in the future. And that would be a grave error.
Q So let me follow up on something that you said we might be able to get. On the Vinson was there a pathologist who would have made a written record of the body –
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any –
Q — and would there have been a written record of a burial at sea?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any information for you on that.
Q There’s always a written naval record of a burial at sea. Could we have a copy?
MR. CARNEY: That may be possible, but I’m not making that promise. What I’m — the point I — the question I was addressing, the question the President addressed was photographs and video. In terms of — and the decision not to release that is related to the image, images, and the potential harm that could cause by releasing those.
Q Could you ask?
MR. CARNEY: Of course I’ll — yes. And I will ask. But, again, there is no point in trying to tease out all these details about an operation that we’ve provided a great number of details on and which, again, is the kind of operation that — elements of which need to be protected for obvious reasons.
Q Jay, can you say with certainty that bin Laden’s hideout would have been found without the enhanced interrogation techniques that were done under the Bush administration?
MR. CARNEY: I can say with certainty that no single piece of information, with the exception of the address of the compound, was vital to this — 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. And it’s impossible to know if one piece of information came from one source and was corroborated in another way, if — which thread held the cloth together — with the exception of the location of the compound. And I would simply note that that has not been — only been in existence for five or six years.
Q Can I follow up on –
MR. CARNEY: Can I just finish answering his question? That would be great.
The fact is, is that information was gathered from detainees — we have multiple ways of gathering information — from detainees, from different methods that we have of getting information. The work that was done to put the case together was done primarily by analysts gathering tiny bits of information, putting it together and creating a body of work, if you will, that led to the finding of the location where Osama bin Laden was hiding.
Q A follow-up. It sounds to me at the very least like what you’re saying is that the interrogation techniques cannot be ruled out as a critical and necessary piece to have found bin Laden. Is that correct? It’s possible that that is true?
MR. CARNEY: I’m saying that there is no single piece of information beyond the location of the compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding out that was incontrovertibly critical to the success of this operation on Sunday.
Now, I can’t categorically rule out that one piece of — because we don’t know. We’re missing a sort of bigger picture here, which is that the incredibly hard and focused work of our intelligence community, intelligence professionals, who don’t get credit because they’re so often — we can’t name them and identify them and stand them up and celebrate them — to this success. And then joint intel, IC, military cooperation led to the remarkably successful mission on Sunday. And that I think is a testament to the focused determination of the American people to do what we said we would do after 9/11, right up to Sunday, which was we were going to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, and we would keep looking for him and we would find him and bring him to justice. And that’s what we did.
Q On that point, the President used that in the transcript that you read from at the top of the briefing, that Osama bin Laden had received justice. Is that what the SEALs went in to do, was deliver justice, or did they go in to take him into custody so he could be tried –
MR. CARNEY: I just went through a whole litany of what their assignment was. It involved –
Q Right, but it seems like an important message, though. I mean, this is how it’s being perceived around the world.
MR. CARNEY: Yes, we absolutely — and if he had surrendered and we could have done — brought him into custody safely, then that would have been bringing him to justice as well. But he was brought to justice on Sunday. And I don’t think — I think it’s entirely appropriate that, given the circumstances, that he was brought to justice in the way he was. The professionals on the ground made — put themselves at great risk and accomplished their mission.
Q You just said that we are not done going after terrorists. The Pakistani government said in a statement that Sunday’s raid was an “unauthorized unilateral action.” So how does that statement — how would that statement sort of affect any future special operations that might take place for another person believed to be involved with al Qaeda?
MR. CARNEY: We have a complicated but vital and important relationship with Pakistan. We don’t agree on everything, but their cooperation has been essential in the fight against al Qaeda. And we continue to work on that relationship and seek that cooperation and receive it. And we will continue to seek and find and bring to justice terrorists who are plotting to do harm to Americans and our allies.
Q So would you use the same method — the same methods that were used on Sunday, even after –
MR. CARNEY: It’s a hypothetical, but certainly that method was very effective and was entirely lawful. And as I said before, I certainly wouldn’t want to preclude the use of that method by anything I might say from here.
Q Different subject, Jay? In his meeting with the Prince of Wales this afternoon, will the President express any interest in meeting Prince William and Kate Middleton on his visit to the U.K. later this month?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. He might –
Q You said yesterday that he would congratulate the Prince.
MR. CARNEY: I’m sure he will congratulate Prince Charles, but beyond that, I just can’t predict.
Q So just following that question there — are you saying that the U.S. reserves the right to, as the President said back in the campaign, if Pakistan will not act against terror suspects, to go and enter Pakistani territory and act against them?
MR. CARNEY: Yes. He made very clear during the campaign that that was his view. He was criticized for it. He maintained that that was his view, and by the actions he has taken as President, feels that it was the right approach and continues to feel that way.
Q Why is the President concerned about incitement from the photographs if, indeed, bin Laden was in fact the Charles Manson of the Muslim world? Do you paint him as not a Muslim? Do you describe him as an extremist?
MR. CARNEY: I said he wasn’t a Muslim leader.
Q And you say, yet, the showing of his dead body will incite –
MR. CARNEY: We have no need to publish those photographs to establish that Osama bin Laden was killed. And it is not, in the President’s view, necessary or prudent to do that because of the possible inflammatory nature of those photographs.
Q Why is it inflammatory, if he is not in fact a Muslim leader?
MR. CARNEY: There is a long history of images like that being used to rally opinion against people, to turn people in those photographs into heroes, and we’re not interested in doing that. And we’re also, as Americans, not interested, as the President said, in trotting around photographs as trophies. That’s not who we are, and so we won’t do it.
Q Some Muslims have told me they would like to see the photographs because –
MR. CARNEY: Well, that’s not who we are.
Q — it would show the enemy dead.
MR. CARNEY: I think I’ve answered the question.
Q Jay –
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Regarding a historical agreement between Hamas and Fatah today, and Egypt today, Prime Minister Netanyahu called this a blow — a blow to peace and great victory for terrorism. What’s the President’s view on this statement? Do you agree with Netanyahu?
MR. CARNEY: We understand that Fatah and Hamas have reached a reconciliation agreement. What is important now is that Palestinians ensure implementation of that agreement, that its implementation advances the prospects of peace, rather than undermines those prospects. We’re continuing to seek details, more information about the nature of the agreement, and we’re consulting with the parties about these very issues. And I refer you to the Palestinians for details on the agreement because we’re still seeking them ourselves.
Q But many people think that without solving Palestine issue, terrorist activities will not disappear in that region. Do you agree?
MR. CARNEY: We certainly agree that it’s imperative for the parties involved to sit down and negotiate a lasting peace. And the President has made that clear and he continues to believe that’s necessary.
Q Just another different topic on electric company, Sony. Sony’s network was attacked by unauthorized outsiders, and they were — more than 100 million people’s information has been taken to the outside. Congress has started to criticize them. There was a hearing today and some didn’t attend. What’s the view on the situation by the administration?
MR. CARNEY: I’m afraid I just — I’m not aware of the details of that and I don’t have an administration view for you. But I’m happy to take that question if you get back to me.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: I’ll take one more, yes.
Q To follow up, on the Middle East, does the President think it’s a good time now to start an initiative on the peace process?
MR. CARNEY: The President has believed since he took office that it’s important to move forward with the peace process — no time like the present.
3:11 P.M. EDT
Tags: Additional Issues, Office of the Press Secretary, Press Briefings, United States, Whitehouse