CIA Director John O. Brennan on Thursday criticized Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Democrats for producing a “flawed” report on enhanced interrogation techniques that failed to interview key personnel about their decisions, offering a half-throated defense of the defunct program that he maintained had provided valuable information used to thwart terror attacks and track down terrorists.
Mr. Brennan, in a rare televised news conference from CIA headquarters, said it was “unknown and unknowable” whether crucial intelligence could have been gleaned any other way. He dubbed some techniques “abhorrent,” but the director praised agency employees for shouldering the heavy burden of keeping America safe during the years immediately following the 9/11 terror attacks….
Mr. Brennan stopped short of using the word “torture” Thursday, saying he would “leave to others how they might want to label those activities.” He also declined to discuss the drone program when pressed by a reporter on whether he worries that it too may one day come under the kind of public scrutiny and debate that the coercive interrogation program has been subjected to this week.
“I’m not going to talk about any type of operational activity that this agency is involved in currently,” he said, although he added that “the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles that you refer to as drones in the counterterrorism effort has done tremendous work to keep this country safe.”
His appearance capped a days-long campaign by the agency and several of its former leaders to convey their side of the story to counter the nearly 500-page document released Tuesday after a five-year probe into the agency’s harrowing post-9/11 interrogation practices.
Concerned that characterizations of torture have obscured the fact that a potential “second wave” of al Qaeda attacks on America was prevented, the former officials have described the report as bitingly partisan.
Intelligence Committee Republicans withdrew from the investigation years ago amid a debate over its relevance after a Justice Department probe concluded during the George W. Bush administration that the enhanced interrogation broke no U.S. laws.
While the actual 6,000-page committee report remains classified, an executive summary released by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, accused the CIA of intentionally and routinely misleading Congress on the interrogation program — specifically by making what the report described as “inaccurate” claims about the “effectiveness” of torture inflicted on detainees.
The document, seen widely as the most comprehensive public accounting to date by Congress of the CIA’s handling of terror suspects at so-called “black site” secret prisons in Eastern Europe and Asia after 9/11, said the agency lied about the program’s scope, including about the number of suspects who were detained and the number subjected to techniques such as waterboarding.
By Guy Taylor – The Washington Times –