C.I.A. Director Defends Use of Interrogation Tactics, Avoiding Issue of Torture
LANGLEY, Va. — John O. Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, on Thursday strongly defended the brutal interrogation tactics once used by the C.I.A. against Qaeda suspects, describing agency interrogators as “patriots” and admonishing only those C.I.A. officers who went “outside the bounds” of Justice Department rules.
Speaking from inside the marble lobby of the C.I.A.’s headquarters, Mr. Brennan on Thursday challenged the conclusions of an excoriating report by the Senate Intelligence Committee that concluded the agency’s detention program had yielded little valuable information, and that the C.I.A. repeatedly misled the White House and Congress about the value of the program. Mr. Brennan said what the C.I.A. calls enhanced interrogation techniques were effective, even if it is “unknowable” whether useful intelligence was obtained as the direct result of brutal interrogation methods.
Unlike President Obama, Mr. Brennan pointedly refused to say that the methods — including waterboarding, shackling prisoners in painful positions, and locking them in coffin-like boxes — amounted to torture. His characterization of the program on Thursday was a contrast to the remarks he made in 2009 while serving as Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, when he said the interrogation methods “led us astray from our ideals as a nation” and that “tactics such as waterboarding were not in keeping with our values as Americans.” Asked on Thursday about those comments, Mr. Brennan said he stood by them.
Mr. Brennan’s televised response mirrored his response and written statement on Tuesday:
CIA Chief Responds To Senate Torture Report: Interrogation Saved Lives
He argued that the CIA’s interrogation methods did produce useful intelligence.
“Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs [enhanced interrogation techniques] were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives. The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qa’ida and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day,” he said.
However, Brennan acknowledged that the CIA’s program had flaws.
“The most serious problems occurred early on and stemmed from the fact that the Agency was unprepared and lacked the core competencies required to carry out an unprecedented, worldwide program of detaining and interrogating suspected al-Qa’ida and affiliated terrorists,” he said. “In carrying out that program, we did not always live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves and that the American people expect of us.”
The CIA has “implemented various remedial measures over the years to address institutional deficiencies,” according to Brennan’s statement.