National Security

Carney Dodges When Asked if Administration Would Negotiate With Al Qaeda

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dodged Anderson Cooper's question Tuesday about whether the U.S. would negotiate with al Qaeda over a prisoner exchange Tuesday on CNN's AC 360.

Carney, like many in the Obama White House since the controversial trade to get Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl out of captivity by trading five captured Taliban commanders, was in full defense mode during his interview with Cooper.

"The principle that we don't leave our men and women behind doesn't have an asterisk attached to it depending on who's holding you," Carney said. "The principle is inviolate, and that's what we pursued here."

Cooper asked even if was a group like one affiliated with the al Qaeda terrorist network, would there be negotiations then?

"Again — but that's not the case here," Carney said. "What I'm saying is he was a prisoner in an armed conflict, and we were engaged in an effort for five years to try to recover him."

Full exchange:

ANDERSON COOPER: I understand the imperative of not leaving anyone behind, but at the same time, can it still be said that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists?

JAY CARNEY: It can be, Anderson, because when you put on the uniform of the United States and you go and fight on behalf of your country in a foreign land at war, and you're taken captive by the enemy, the principle that we don't leave our men and women behind doesn't have an asterisk attached to it depending on who's holding you. The principle is inviolate, and that's what we pursued here.

COOPER: Even if it was a group like al Qaeda, there would be negotiations with them?

CARNEY: Again — but that's not the case here. What I'm saying is he was a prisoner in an armed conflict, and we were engaged in an effort for five years to try to recover him. As an admiral said on TV today, he said when one of your shipmates goes overboard, you go get them. You don't ask whether he jumped or he was pushed or he fell. You go get him first and then you find out.