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ABC Yawns: Not Interested in Whether Waterboarding Helped Kill bin Laden

ABC's World News on Tuesday continued to demonstrate the network's lack of interest in whether enhanced interrogation methods such as waterboarding played a part in the killing of Osama bin laden. The Diane Sawyer-anchored program was the only newscast to avoid the topic.

In contrast, Nightly News host Brian Williams interviewed CIA director Leon Panetta, grilling, "Can you confirm that it was as a result of waterboarding that we learned what we needed to learn to go after bin Laden?" He hammered the question three times, adding, "...Are you denying that waterboarding was in part among the tactics used to extract the intelligence that led to this successful mission?"

On the CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric made similar points to Panetta: "One of President Obama's first acts was to outlaw enhanced interrogation techniques. Now, some of these were used on detainees who provided information that led to bin Laden's whereabouts. Given that, do you think the use of these techniques should, in fact, be re-evaluated?"

Panetta did not appear on ABC. Not only that, ABC's World News on Tuesday didn't mention waterboarding or enhanced interrogation at all.

Both Evening News and Nightly News obtained scoops from Panetta. He admitted to Williams, "No, I think some of the detainees clearly were, you know- they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees."

Panetta told Couric, "Obviously there was- there was some valuable information that was derived through those kinds of interrogations." On Wednesday, however, both NBC's Today and CBS's Early Show ignored these important nuggets of information their colleagues obtained.

During the Bush administration, journalists indignantly attacked the use of enhanced interrogation. On the May 31, 2005, ABC's Terry Moran, at a press conference with George W. Bush, complained, "Mr. President, recently Amnesty International said you have established, quote, 'a new gulag of prisons around the world beyond the reach of the law and decency."

On the May 22, 2009 GMA, Chris Cuomo speculated, "Enhanced interrogation. Is that just another word for torture and is that the game America should be in?"

On September 13, 2006, Evening News' Bob Schieffer scolded, "Democracies have no business running secret prisons. That's what our enemies do."

GMA on Tuesday also ignored enhanced interrogation.

A transcript of the May 03 Nightly News and Evening News exchanges with Panetta can be found below:

CBS Evening News

6:34

KATIE COURIC: One of President Obama's first acts was to outlaw enhanced interrogation techniques. Now, some of these were used on detainees who provided information that led to bin Laden's whereabouts. Given that, do you think the use of these techniques should, in fact, be re-evaluated?

LEON PANETTA: No, I really don't. You know, I think what we had here were a lot of streams of intelligence that came together. And I think it's probably going too far to say it all ties to just, you know, one source of information that we received. We were looking at a lot of lines of information, going back a long way.

COURIC: Having said that, some valuable information did, in fact, come from enhanced interrogation techniques.

PANETTA: Obviously there was- there was some valuable information that was derived through those kinds of interrogations. But I guess the question that everybody will always debate is whether or not those approaches had to be used in order to get the same information. And that, frankly, is an open question.

NBC Nightly News

7:06

BRIAN WILLIAMS: I'd like to ask you about the sourcing on the intel that ultimately led to this successful attack. Can you confirm that it was as a result of waterboarding that we learned what we needed to learn to go after bin Laden?

LEON PANETTA: You know, Brian, in the intelligence business, you work from a lot of sources of information. And that was true here. We had a multiple source- a multiple series of sources that provided information with regards to this situation. Clearly, some of it came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees. But we also had information from other sources, as well. So it's a little difficult to say it was due just to one source of information that we got.

WILLIAMS: Turned around the other, are you denying that waterboarding was in part among the tactics used to extract the intelligence that led to this successful mission?

PANETTA: No, I think some of the detainees clearly were, you know- they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. But I'm also saying that, you know, the debate about whether- whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches, I think, is always going to be an open question.

WILLIAMS: So finer point, one final time: Enhanced interrogation techniques, which has always been kind of a hand a handy euphemism in these post 9/11 years, that includes waterboarding?

PANETTA: That's correct.

- Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.