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White House: Obama Backs CIA Chief Over Torture Report

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama has again backed Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan, a White House spokesman said Friday, a day after Brennan repeated claims that terror attacks had been prevented by the interrogation methods most consider to be torture.

The comments, by spokesman Josh Earnest, comes days after the Senate Intelligence Committee released a scathing report documenting interrogation methods used by CIA interrogators in the early 2000s such as simulated drowning, forced feedings and sleep deprivations.

On Thursday, Brennan acknowledged that "abhorrent" methods were used on terror suspects following the September 11, 2001, attacks.

But he largely defended the interrogation program, saying "useful and valuable information" was acquired after the CIA used what he referred to as "enhanced interrogation techniques," or EITs. He refused to call those techniques torture.

"The cause and effect relationship between the application of those EITs and the ultimate provision of information is unknown and unknowable," Brennan said. "But for someone to say that there was no intelligence of any value, of use, that came from those detainees once they were subjected to EITs, I think that lacks any foundation at all."

On Friday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest pointed to Brennan's statement that he fully supports Obama's decision to ban such tactics when he took office in 2009.

Brennan said "a limited number" of CIA officials went "outside the bounds" of approved rules and abused prisoners, but said he would "leave to others how they might want to label those activities."

The spy chief also slammed the Senate report's finding that enhanced interrogation tactics were ineffective, saying "useful and valuable" information was acquired after the agency used them.

Human rights activists and others have called for the prosecution of officials involved in the CIA's interrogation program.

Earlier this week, the Justice Department said it has decided not to re-open a criminal investigation. The department said investigators did not find any new information in the Senate report that they had not previously considered.

When asked Friday why criminal charges have not been filed, Earnest said federal prosecutors "should be making decisions about their investigation absent any sort of political interference from anybody at the White House."

Asked whether any of those involved are still working for the government, Earnest called that a question for the CIA, but said President Obama "expects that everybody in the federal government live up to the policies that he has established," including his ban on torture.

Brennan refused to rule out whether a future U.S. administration would use similar techniques when faced with an imminent threat, saying he would "defer to the policymakers in future times."

In releasing her committee's report earlier this week, Senator Dianne Feinstein called the methods the CIA used to interrogate prisoners "far more brutal than people were led to believe."

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