CIA 'torture report': Director John Brennan admits techniques were 'abhorrent' but denies the agency mislead the public or the President

Brennan said CIA intelligence gained using "enhanced interrogation techniques" helped to track Osama Bin Laden

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The Independent US

The director of the CIA has admitted that some interrogation techniques used in the wake of the 9/11 attacks were “abhorrent”, but strongly defended the agency and denied it had misled the public or policymakers.

John Brennan’s statements at a rare press conference addressed a Senate Intelligence Committee report, which revealed that the CIA deceived US government officials and the public by insisting that brutal tactics, including water-boarding, physical abuse and isolation, helped to gather intelligence which saved lives. The report also said that the CIA's own records fail to back up the agency's claims.

He began by recounting the harrowing events of the 9/11, and described the agency's determination to prevent another terrorist attack, as well as the fact that CIA officers were the first to fight and early to die in the Afghanistan war.

Mr Brennan went on to admit to reporters at the agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia, that some officers acted outside of interrogation rules and he called this "regrettable". But he was also quick to defend the CIA, and added that an overwhelming number of officers complied with the rules on interrogation, and “did what they were asked to do in the service of their nation.”

He asserted the CIA "did a lot of things right" in a time when there were "no easy answers", but stressed it did not intentionally deceive the public or then-President George Bush.

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Addressing whether the CIA’s tactics generated intelligence which saved lives, he said this was “unknowable”.

"Let me be clear. We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques) within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. The cause-and-effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable," he said.

However, he continued that the agency believes that information gained from prisoners who underwent so-called EITs helped to locate and kill al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden - which the report disputed.

Closing his address, he conceded that the agency has "room to improve" but he wanted to put aside the debate on techniques which have not be used for over seven years, and look to the future.

Brennan is the most high profile in a string of current and former CIA officials to have pushed back against the report published on Tuesday. The document's detractors are attempting to paint the Senate report as a political stunt by Senate Democrats tarnishing a programme that saved American lives.

Responding to the report on Tuesday, President Obama said the interrogation techniques "did significant damage to America's standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies."

Additional reporting by Reuters and AP