Tags: Barack Obama | CIA Torture Report | torture | Senate | report | CIA | terrorists

Obama at Odds With CIA Chief Over Effectiveness of Torture

By    |   Wednesday, 10 December 2014 09:07 AM

President Barack Obama's support of the findings in the CIA interrogation report has put him at odds with CIA Director John Brennan, one of his closest advisers, who disputes a number of the findings in the report.

According to The Wall Street Journal, their statements following the report's release Tuesday diverged in their assessment about the effectiveness of the techniques for counterterrorism operations.

And while Obama described some of the methods as torture, Brennan would only acknowledge that mistakes were made.

In his statement, Obama said that the techniques mentioned in the report demonstrate his rationale for why he "banned torture" after assuming the presidency in 2009. He added that the report "reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests."

Brennan, by contrast, asserts that the techniques were effective, saying that they "did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives."

"The intelligence gained from the program," he said, "was critical to our understanding of al-Qaida and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day."

But the two men share a close relationship and a senior administration official told the Journal that Obama has full confidence in Brennan. Their differences could in part be driven by the distinct positions they have within the government.

Specifically, Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said that while Obama wanted to publicly "recognize that some mistakes were made in the past and that we need to have a turning point," Brennan was likely more concerned with maintaining the morale of the agency as well as his own position, the Journal reported.

But Brennan, who served as Obama's adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security issues after ending his tenure as a top official at the agency under former President George W. Bush, has had his own evolution on the issues covered in the report, Politico reported.

During his confirmation hearings in February 2013, Brennan told senators that after reading a summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report, he began to doubt his previously held view that the interrogation techniques had yielded valuable intelligence.

He said at the time that the report "raises serious questions about the information that I was given" while at the CIA, an echo of the committee's findings that the agency had mislead the Bush administration and the public about the effectiveness of some of the brutal techniques used, such as waterboarding, Politico said.

"I don't know what the truth is," Brennan said at the time.

But he assured the committee that he opposed the techniques and would prohibit them at the CIA if he became director.

Brennan has always insisted that he had no personal role in designing or implementing the interrogation practices when he was a senior official at the agency, and the report appeared to confirm that, making little mention of him other than to say that he was aware of the harsh practices that were being employed.

But his evolving position on the issue has sparked criticism about his role at the agency today.

"John Brennan has no business running the CIA," Chris Anders, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU, told Politico. "It's hard to see how Brennan's going to be up to the task of imposing reforms on what seem to be his buddies at the CIA."

Another expert said Brennan's current position on the report makes him a "conflicted character."

"On the one hand, he clearly does seem to agree that serious mistakes were made in this program and fundamentally he agrees with the president that we should not resort to so-called enhanced interrogation," Raha Wala, senior counsel for law and security at Human Rights First, told Politico.

"On the other hand," Wala said, "he no doubt has a deeply instinctive need to defend the CIA at all costs."

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President Obama's support of the findings in the Senate report on CIA interrogation techniques has put him at odds with CIA Director John Brennan, one of his closest advisers, who disputes a number of the findings there.
torture, Senate, report, CIA, terrorists
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2014-07-10
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 09:07 AM
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