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CBS Omits Waterboarding, Other Key Issues from Obama Interview

On Sunday's 60 Minutes, CBS's Steve Kroft failed to bring up key issues related to the killing of Osama bin Laden during an interview of President Obama, such as the enhanced interrogation of captured al Qaeda leaders which provided the first intelligence that ultimately lead to the Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan.

The journalist set the overall tone of his interview, which he conducted on Wednesday, by tossing a softball in his lead question to Obama: "Mr. President, was this the most satisfying week of your presidency?" After the chief executive gave his initial answer, Kroft followed up by asking, "Was the decision to launch this attack the most difficult decision that you've made as commander-in-chief?

Later, the correspondent waxed ecstatic about the President's full schedule as final preparations were being made for the assault on the al Qaeda leader's compound:

KROFT: After you made the decision to go ahead, you had, like, this incredible weekend where you were you surveyed the tornado damage in Alabama. You took your family to the shuttle launch and met with people down there, with [Representative] Gabby Giffords. You attended the White House [Correspondents'] Association dinner. There was a commencement address. And this was all going on. I mean, you knew what was gonna happen.

OBAMA: Yeah, yeah. The decision was made. I made the decision Thursday night, informed my team Friday morning, and then we flew off to look at the tornado damage, to go to Cape Canaveral, to make a speech, a commencement speech. And then, we had the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday night. So, this was in the back of my mind all weekend.

KROFT: Just the back?

OBAMA: Middle, front-

KROFT: Was it hard keeping your focus?

OBAMA: Yes- yeah.

KROFT: Did you have to suppress the urge to tell someone? Did you wanna tell somebody? Did you wanna tell Michelle? Did you tell Michelle?

While Kroft did bring up some controversies surrounding the bin Laden killing, such as the President's decision to not release death photos of the terror leader and his burial at sea, the CBS journalist kept the questions very simple: "Did you see the pictures? What was your reaction when you saw them? Was it your decision to bury him at sea?"

Only months earlier, in November 2010, the correspondent conducted an equally soft interview of the President where he sympathetically wondered if the Democrat "sold his successes well enough" and lamented how he "lost [his] ability...to inspire and lead."

The transcript of Steve Kroft's questions to President Barack Obama on Sunday's 60 Minutes, including some of the President's answers for context:

STEVE KROFT: Mr. President, was this the most satisfying week of your presidency?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, it was certainly one of the most satisfying weeks, not only for my presidency, but I think for the United States since I've been President. Obviously, bin Laden had been not only a symbol of terrorism but a mass murderer who's- had eluded justice for so long and so many families who have been affected, I think, had given up hope. And for us to be able to definitively say we got the man who caused thousands of deaths here in the United States was something that I think all of us were profoundly grateful to be a part of.

KROFT: Was this- was the decision to launch this attack the most difficult decision that you've made as commander-in-chief?

OBAMA: Certainly one. You know, every time I send young men and women into a war theater, that's a tough decision, and whenever you write a letter to a family who's lost a loved one, it's sobering. This was a very difficult decision in part because the evidence that we had was not absolutely conclusive. This was circumstantial evidence that he was going to be there. Obviously, it entailed enormous risk to the guys that I sent in there. But, ultimately, I had so much confidence in the capacity of our guys to carry out the mission that I felt that the risks were outweighed by the potential benefit of us finally getting our man.

KROFT: When the CIA first brought this information to you, what was your reaction? Was there a sense of excitement? Did this look promising from the very beginning?

KROFT: When was that, when you set that plan in motion?

KROFT: How actively were you involved in that process?

KROFT: Were you surprised when they came to you with this compound right in the middle of- sort of the military center of Pakistan?

KROFT: Do you believe it was built for him?

KROFT: Do you have any idea how long he was there?

KROFT: Did he move out of that compound?

KROFT: This was your decision, whether to proceed or not, and how to proceed. What was the most difficult part of that decision?

KROFT: I mean, it's been reported that there was some resistance from advisors and planners who disagreed with the commando raid approach. Was it difficult for you to overcome that, and what level of confidence did you have?

KROFT: How much did some of the past failures, like the Iran hostage rescue attempt, how did that weigh on you? I mean-

OBAMA: I thought about that.

KROFT: Was that a factor?

KROFT: It sounds like you made a decision that you could accept failure. You didn't want failure but after looking at the 55/45 thing that you mentioned, you must have at some point concluded that the advantages outweighed the risks.

KROFT: How much of it was gut instinct? Did you have personal feelings about whether he was there?

OBAMA: The thing about gut instinct is if it works, then you think, boy, I had good instincts. (laughs) If it doesn't, then you're gonna be running back in your mind all the things that told you maybe you shouldn't have done it. Obviously, I had enough of an instinct that we could be right, that it was worth doing.

KROFT: After you made the decision to go ahead, you had, like, this incredible weekend where you were you surveyed the tornado damage in Alabama. You took your family to the shuttle launch and met with people down there, with [Representative] Gabby Giffords. You attended the White House [Correspondents'] Association dinner. There was a commencement address. And this was all going on. I mean, you knew what was gonna happen.

OBAMA: Yeah, yeah. The decision was made. I made the decision Thursday night, informed my team Friday morning, and then we flew off to look at the tornado damage, to go to Cape Canaveral, to make a speech, a commencement speech. And then, we had the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday night. So, this was in the back of my mind all weekend.

KROFT: Just the back?

OBAMA: Middle, front-

KROFT: Was it hard keeping your focus?

OBAMA: Yes- yeah.

KROFT: Did you have to suppress the urge to tell someone? Did you wanna tell somebody? Did you wanna tell Michelle? Did you tell Michelle?

KROFT: I want to go to the Situation Room. What was the mood?

OBAMA: Tense.

KROFT: People talking?

KROFT: Were you nervous?

KROFT: What could you see?

KROFT: Right, and that went on for a long time? Could you hear gunfire?

KROFT: So it got off to a bad start?

KROFT: There was a backup plan?

KROFT: You had to blow up some walls?

KROFT: When was the first indication you got- that you had found the right place, that bin Laden was in there?

KROFT: What was your reaction when you heard those words?

KROFT: When did you start to feel comfortable that bin Laden had been killed?

KROFT: Did you see the pictures?

KROFT: What was your reaction when you saw them?

KROFT: Why haven't you released them?

KROFT: There are people in Pakistan, for example, who say, look, this is all a lie. This is another American trick. Osama's not dead.

KROFT: Was it your decision to bury him at sea?

KROFT: When the mission was over and you walked out of the Situation Room, what did you do? What was the first thing you did?

KROFT: When you announced that bin Laden had been killed last Sunday, you said, 'Our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.' Can you be more specific on that, and how much help did Pakistan actually provide in getting rid of bin Laden?

KROFT: You didn't tell anybody in the Pakistani government or the military.

OBAMA: No.

KROFT: Or their intelligence community?

OBAMA: No.

KROFT: Because you didn't trust?

OBAMA: As I said, I didn't tell most people here in the White House. I didn't tell my own family. It was that important for us to maintain operational security.

KROFT: But you were carrying out this operation in Pakistan.

OBAMA: Yeah.

KROFT: You didn't trust them?

KROFT: Right now, the location of this house, the location of the compound just raises all sorts of questions. Do you believe people in the Pakistani government? Pakistani intelligence agencies knew that bin Laden was living there?

KROFT: Do you have any sense of what they found there?

KROFT: Is this the first time that you've ever ordered someone killed?

KROFT: This was one man. This is somebody who's cast a shadow in this place, in the White House for almost a decade.

- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.