Columns

Obama Will Head to CIA to 'Detect Opportunities' in ISIS Fight

President Obama meets with his National Security Council at the State Department in Washington on Feb. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Obama will head across the Potomac to the Central Intelligence Agency on Wednesday for a National Security Council meeting that the White House says will be “valuable to testing how effective the strategy is” against ISIS.

Press secretary Josh Earnest called the meeting “consistent with the regular cadence of meetings that the president convenes with his national security team to take a look at our campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”

“The president typically uses these meetings where, you know, senior members of his team participate, to get an update on how things are going,” Earnest told reporters at today’s daily briefing.

“And one of the keys to our success is going to be our ability to be nimble and to look for opportunities and to detect opportunities early for investing more in certain elements of our strategy to try to yield additional progress,” he added. “So, it’s not uncommon for the president to make decisions in the context of these meetings. I don’t know whether or not a decision will be announced in the context of tomorrow’s meeting, but the president will deliver a statement at the conclusion of the meeting, and so you’ll get an opportunity to hear from him directly about what he believed was accomplished in the discussion.”

CIA Director John Brennan told NBC on Sunday that he would not waterboard or use other “enhanced interrogation techniques” if directed to do so by a future president.

“I will not agree to carry out some of these tactics and techniques I’ve heard bandied about because this institution needs to endure,” Brennan said.

Asked about those comments today, Earnest said Brennan “was expressing his support for a value that he’s long expressed, which is he believes that the national security of the United States is enhanced and is strengthened when we make clear that the United States doesn’t torture people, and we certainly don’t implement a policy that allows torture, and we don’t send even an ambiguous signal that somehow the U.S. government might condone torture.”

“That is the value that Director Brennan was standing up for in the context of that interview, and that is not the first that he has done it. He is somebody who, throughout his career, has recognized how important it is for our national security policy to reflect our values,” he said. “And Director Brennan, more eloquently than I am here, can help you understand exactly why that is critical to the success of our country, and critical to our national security. People look to the United States as a place where human rights are not just protected, but championed.”

Both Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have spoken on the campaign trail in favor of enhanced interrogation techniques.

Earnest said “implementing a policy, and one that has been proven time and time again over the course of this presidency is that we can implement a policy, a national security policy that is consistent with our values, advances our interests and keeps the American people safe.”

“The president is proud of that track record, and that track record was possible because of the enormous contributions of people like Director Brennan.”