“In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did things that were contrary to our values,” Pres. Obama said near the end of a nearly hour-long press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC.
The commander-in-chief made the comment as he fielded a question concerning John Brennan, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, in-between queries from journalists regarding the situations in Gaza, Ukraine and West Africa.
Earlier this week, Brennan admitted that CIA employees had, as alleged, spied on the computer usage of Senate Intelligence Committee staffers while they worked on a report concerning the agency’s use of contentious interrogation tactics. The report, a 6,000-page study, has yet to be made public, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the chairperson of the intelligence panel, said it is “chilling” and will show “far more systematic and widespread than we thought.”
After acknowledging that the US had “tortured some folks” during Friday’s briefing, Obama added: “That’s what that report reflects.”
Earlier this week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) told The Daily Beast that “The American people will be profoundly disturbed about what will be revealed in this report.”
On his part, Pres. Obama added during Friday’s briefing that “The character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy but what we do when things are hard.”
The word “torture” to describe the tactics used by the CIA is rarely used by government officials, but Pres. Obama has indeed condemned the agency’s past abuses before. During an address last year at the National Defense University, Obama said that, in some cases, “I believe we compromised our basic values — by using torture to interrogate our enemies, and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law.”
“So after I took office, we stepped up the war against Al-Qaeda but we also sought to change its course. We relentlessly targeted Al-Qaeda’s leadership. We ended the war in Iraq, and brought nearly 150,000 troops home. We pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan, and increased our training of Afghan forces. We unequivocally banned torture, affirmed our commitment to civilian courts, worked to align our policies with the rule of law and expanded our consultations with Congress,” Obama said in that address from last May.
The president spoke of the report after being asked for his opinion of Brennan, who previously insisted that Sen. Feinstein was speaking erroneously when she said the CIA had spied on intelligence committee staffers.
“I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts,” Brennan initially countered the senator’s claims.
On Thursday, McClatchy reported that an investigation conducted by the CIA’s Office of Inspector General concluded that its employees “acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding” between the agency and the intelligence committee. Brennan then responded by meeting with Feinstein and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), the vice chairman of the committee, and “apologized to them for such actions by CIA officers as described in the OIG” report, a CIA spokesperson told McClatchy.
“I have full confidence in John Brennan,” Obama said during Friday’s presser.