The United States “did some things that were wrong” in the wake of 9/11, President Obama said during a press conference Friday. “We tortured some folks.”
“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 the line,” Obama said in response to a question about the soon-to-be-released Senate report on CIA torture.
“I understand why it happened. I think it’s important, when we look back, to recall how afraid people were when the twin towers fell,” Obama said, urging Americans not to judge those who oversaw brutal interrogations and harrowing secret detentions in the search to find Osama bin Laden and root out other terrorist plots.
“It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job those folks had,” he added.
Obama also expressed his “full confidence” in CIA director John Brennan, who is facing blistering criticism and calls for his resignation after an agency Inspector General’s report confirmed that the intelligence agency had spied on Senate intelligence committee staffers who were investigating the CIA.
“I think he’s acknowledged and apologized to Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein that CIA personnel didn’t well handle how documents got to Senate staff and it’s clear from the Inspector General’s report that poor judgment was shown,” Obama said.
When Sen. Feinstein accused the CIA of spying on the committee in March, Brennan insisted that her allegations were false.
The president also confirmed that the long-awaited Senate report on Bush-era torture at the CIA has been declassified and transmitted to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The declassified version of the report could be released any day.
Nearly 13 years after 9/11, no one has been prosecuted for torturing detainees. While Obama as a candidate in 2008 criticized the harsh counter-terrorism policies of his predecessor, he backed away from any possibility of prosecutions as president-elect. “I don’t want [CIA employees] to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders,” he said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” before his inauguration.
The nation must “look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” he added.