NBC's Mitchell falsely suggests Blair letter expressed approval for interrogation methods

››› ››› LILY YAN

Andrea Mitchell claimed that director of national intelligence Dennis Blair's statements appear to differ from President Obama's rejection of enhanced interrogation policies, when, in fact, Blair made clear in an April 16 letter that he opposed them.

On the April 22 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News, while reporting on harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA during the Bush administration, chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell stated that "the Obama administration's own director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, wrote his employees last week that the interrogations produced high-value information." Mitchell went on to say, "Tonight, a senior official told NBC News Blair does not back away from his private comments, even though they appear to differ from the president's rejection of the Bush policies." But contrary to Mitchell's suggestion that Blair supports the use of "the Bush policies" while Obama has "reject[ed]" them, according to the blog of the U.S. Naval Institute, in the April 16 letter that was sent "to the Intelligence Community workforce," Blair made clear he opposes the use of such techniques, which he called "graphic and disturbing." Moreover, Blair issued an April 21 statement that said he "strongly supported the president when he declared that we would no longer use enhanced interrogation techniques" and said of the methods: "The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."

As Media Matters for America has documented, in his April 16 letter, Blair wrote: "Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing. As the President has made clear, and as both CIA Director [Leon] Panetta and I have stated, we will not use those techniques in the future. I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past, but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given."

From the April 22 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

MITCHELL: And the Obama administration's own director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, wrote his employees last week that the interrogations produced high-value information. And he said he did not fault those who made the decisions at the time.

But Blair left those controversial comments out of public statements he issued at the same time. Tonight, a senior official told NBC News Blair does not back away from his private comments, even though they appear to differ from the president's rejection of the Bush policies. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Interrogation
Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
Andrea Mitchell
Show/Publication
NBC Nightly News
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