John Brennan, the CIA director, acknowledged there had been “lapses” in confining and interrogating detainees in the wake of the 11 September attacks on the United States, but insisted that the “overwhelming” majority of agency officers involved faithfully followed legal and policy guidelines.
“They did what they were asked to do in the service of their nation,” the director said. Yet he said the agency had “room to improve” still and that in some cases officers had acted outside the rules and resorted to methods that were “abhorrent and rightly should be repudiated by all”. But he was adamant that the CIA had “done a lot of things right during the difficult time”. There were “no easy answers”.
Giving his first response to Tuesday’s Senate report on the five-year rendition and interrogation programme and the furore it has triggered domestically and globally, Mr Brennan denied one of its key claims – that the agency deliberately deceived Washington and the world about it. “We take exceptional pride in providing truth to power, whether that power likes or agrees with what we say or not,” he said.
Attempting to strike a balance between defending the agency and remaining loyal to President Barack Obama, who termed the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques as "torture" on arriving in office, and shuttered the programme, he said he couldn’t say if the techniques used, like waterboarding, had produced useful intelligence. “The cause and effect relationship… is in my view unknowable,” he said.
CIA torture report: Who knew what?
CIA torture report: Who knew what?
1/6 GEORGE W BUSH
FORMER US PRESIDENT President Bush has stated in his autobiography that he discussed the programme, including the use of enhanced techniques, with then CIA director George Tenet in 2002, prior to application of the techniques on Abu Zubaydah, and personally approved them. A memoir by the former Acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo disputes this.
2/6 JOHN BRENNAN
FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND NOW DIRECTOR, CIA Among those who were sent an update on 26 July 2002, in which CIA officers were said to be involved in “sound disorientation techniques,” “sense of time deprivation,” limited light, cold temperatures”, and sleep deprivation. The plan was circulated to senior CIA officers.
3/6 CONDOLEEZZA RICE
FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER On 31 July, 2002, she said that, in balancing the application of the CIA’s interrogation techniques against the possible loss of American lives, she would not object to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques if the Attorney General determined them to be legal.
4/6 GEORGE J TENET
FORMER DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE, CIA In late January 2003, in response to the death of CIA detainee Gul Rahman and the use of a gun and a drill in the CIA interrogations, DCI Tenet signed the first formal interrogation and confinement guidelines for the programme.
5/6 DONALD RUMSFELD
FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENCE Donald Rumsfeld was made aware of the CIA interrogation programme prior to recertification of the covert action for the first time in a 25-minute briefing on 16 September, 2003. It was Condoleezza Rice who ordered his briefing.
6/6 COLIN POWELL
FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE A CIA email dated 31 July, 2003 states: “The [White House] is extremely concerned [Secretary of State] Powell would blow his stack if he were to be briefed on what’s been going on.” He was formally briefed for the first time on 16 September that year.
However, he said the CIA remained convinced that information gleaned did help locate Osama bin Laden, who was eventually trapped and killed by US special forces at a hideout in Pakistan. While stopping short of denouncing the report outright, he noted it had been compiled without Republican support, as would be normal, and without interviewing CIA officers.
Mr Brennan’s rare intervention came against a backdrop of a broader campaign to discredit the Senate report, spearheaded notably by former directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden.
Also wading in with characteristic belligerence has been former Vice President Dick Cheney, who in a Fox News interview on Wednesday night argued that the report was "full of crap”. He said the CIA was following instructions seeking to ferret out all possible intelligence on al-Qaeda and its plans.
“We asked the agency to go take steps and put in place programmes that were designed to catch the bastards who killed 3,000 of us on 9/11 and make sure it didn't happen again, and that's exactly what they did, and they deserve a lot of credit, not the condemnation they are receiving from the Senate Democrats,” he said.
Mr Cheney rejected the claim in the report that former President George W Bush had been kept in the dark about the details of the programme and wasn’t directly briefed on it until 2006. “He knew everything he needed to know and wanted to know,” he said, adding that the notion that the CIA had been "operating on a rogue basis and we weren’t being told and the President wasn’t being told is just a flat out lie”.
Around the world, even allies of the US continued to voice dismay at the conclusions of the report, among them the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu. “I hope our friend and ally, the United States, won't repeat these kinds of actions, that inhumane acts are not repeated,” he said in Ankara.
Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak lamented the “unacceptable methods of interrogation” but called the report’s release “a sign of the United States distancing themselves from these practices of the past. It should also serve as a guarantee that things like that will never happen in the future.”Reuse content