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Donilon Dodges Question on Enhanced Interrogation

The past week has been the ultimate vindication of the value of enhanced interrogation techniques. And we couldn’t have found a better person to affirm their effectiveness than President Obama, who has now achieved the greatest success of his presidential career thanks in part to techniques he once harshly condemned.

But the administration has found itself in the uncomfortable position of benefiting from the same techniques it’s outlawed. This leads to awkward exchanges like the one on Meet the Press this morning, when David Gregory pressed White House National Security Advisor Tom Donilon about the role enhanced interrogation played in tracking down Osama bin Laden:

“First of all, I’m not going to comment on specific pieces of intelligence and the source,” Donilon said, arguing that the investigation included “hundreds of pieces of intelligence over many years.”

But there’s a specific point. Did harsh interrogation help in the effort to ultimately identify where he was?” Gregory asked.

“No single piece of intelligence led to this,” Donilon replied.

Gregory tried a third time: “Can you address my question? Did harsh interrogation help in the hunt for bin laden?”

“I’m not going to comment on specific intelligence…” Donilon said.

Donilon’s dodges are revealing, and the administration’s reluctance to admit that enhanced interrogations played a role in finding bin Laden will become an increasing embarrassment for Democrats.

Killing bin Laden has been rightly seen as a political triumph for Obama, but it’s also a moral victory for conservatives. Bin Laden was ultimately brought to justice by Bush counterterrorism policies. And by benefiting from them, Obama has done more to discredit the left-wing philosophy on terrorism than Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney could ever have done.