WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama said that some CIA officials who interrogated suspects after the 9/11 attacks “crossed a line” into torture.
“We did a whole lot of things that were right, but tortured some folks,” Obama said, while discussing a forthcoming Senate report on enhanced interrogation techniques. “We did some things that were contrary to our values.”
Obama condemned those techniques as torture before, but his administration has not sought prosecution of possible offenders. The president said that people should remember all the pressure put on national security teams after 9/11, and “it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had.”
Obama also made the following points:
•There will be an effective federal response to any threat from the Ebola virus, and that precautions are being taken ahead of next week’s US-African Leaders Summit in Washington DC.
• The United States will work to restore a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that ended shortly after it began Friday. He demanded Palestinians release an Israeli soldier kidnapped during the fighting Friday.
• He disputes the notion that the United States is losing influence on world affairs. He says that although the US remains the world’s most powerful nation, it still does not control everything around the world. “The conduct of world affairs is “not neat” and smooth,” he says.
Meanwhile, President Obama threw his weight behind CIA Director John Brennan, stating he has full confidence in him as calls grow for his resignation over a damning report that found his agency spied on the Senate. “I have full confidence in John Brennan,” Obama said in a White House press conference on Friday. “I think he has directly apologised to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and acknowledged that CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation into how certain documents that were not authorised to be released to the Senate staff got somehow into the hands of the Senate staff,” the US president said.
“It’s clear from the report that some very poor judgment was shown in terms of how that was handled,” Obama added. “Keep in mind, though, that John Brennan was the person who called for the inspector general report, and he’s already stood up a task force to make sure that lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved,” he asserted. According to a CIA inspector general’s office report, agency employees in 2009 hacked Senate computers being used to compile a report on the CIA’s controversial detention and interrogation techniques.
A number of US senators, including Mark Udall and Martin Heinrich, both Democrats, are now calling on Brennan to step aside following the CIA’s admission that it spied on the Senate investigation. “After being briefed on the CIA inspector general’s report today, I have no choice but to call for the resignation of CIA Director John Brennan,” said Senator Udall in a statement on Thursday.
At a news conference Friday, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham – both Republicans – said they viewed the CIA’s conduct as “worse than criminal.” The CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques are considered by many to be torture. President Obama admitted Friday that the United States “crossed a line” into torture in its treatment of terrorism suspects in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“I was very clear that, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong,” Obama said, while discussing the forthcoming Senate report. “We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.”
“And when we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line,” the president said. Brennan has overseen the massive proliferation of US drone warfare and other “counterterrorism” programmess.