CIA director John Brennan admits 'lapses' in interrogation techniques and says some tactics were 'abhorrent'

Brennan denied that the CIA had deliberately deceived Washington

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The Independent US

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.

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.”

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