Obama, Politicians Respond to Senate CIA Torture Report

Posted on 12/9/14
By Staff | ViewsWeek
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama has said the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s “troubling program” involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States were “inconsistent” with America’s values as nation. In a carefully worded statement issued by the White House, the President said the program did not serve America’s broader counterterrorism efforts or its national security interests.

 

While acknowledging the services of the intelligence community in keeping Americans safe from terrorism in the post-9/11 era,he said the Bush Administration faced “agonizing choices” about pursuing al Qaeda to prevent additional terrorist attacks. “As I have said before, our nation did many things right in those difficult years.  At the same time, some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values.,” he noted and adding that was the reason he banned torture after assuming office.

 

The President reiterated his resolve to be relentless in the fight against al Qaeda, its affiliates and will rely on all elements of America’s national power, including the power and example of its founding ideals. “That is why I have consistently supported the declassification of today’s report.  No nation is perfect.  But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better.”

 

Here is the full statement of the President:

Throughout our history, the United States of America has done more than any other nation to stand up for freedom, democracy, and the inherent dignity and human rights of people around the world.  As Americans, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to our fellow citizens who serve to keep us safe, among them the dedicated men and women of our intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency.  Since the horrific attacks of 9/11, these public servants have worked tirelessly to devastate core al Qaeda, deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupt terrorist operations and thwart terrorist attacks.  Solemn rows of stars on the Memorial Wall at the CIA honor those who have given their lives to protect ours. Our intelligence professionals are patriots, and we are safer because of their heroic service and sacrifices.

In the years after 9/11, with legitimate fears of further attacks and with the responsibility to prevent more catastrophic loss of life, the previous administration faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al Qaeda and prevent additional terrorist attacks against our country.  As I have said before, our nation did many things right in those difficult years.  At the same time, some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values.  That is why I unequivocally banned torture when I took office, because one of our most effective tools in fighting terrorism and keeping Americans safe is staying true to our ideals at home and abroad.

Today’s report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence details one element of our nation’s response to 9/11—the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which I formally ended on one of my first days in office.  The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests.  Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners.  That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again.

As Commander in Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people.  We will therefore continue to be relentless in our fight against al Qaeda, its affiliates and other violent extremists.  We will rely on all elements of our national power, including the power and example of our founding ideals.  That is why I have consistently supported the declassification of today’s report.  No nation is perfect.  But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better.  Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong—in the past.  Today is also a reminder that upholding the values we profess doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger and that the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.

 

Earlier on Dec. 9, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the executive summary of the committee’s five-year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. The release includes redacted versions of the committee’s executive summary and findings and conclusions, as well as additional and minority views authored by members of the committee.

 

“This document examines the CIA’s secret overseas detention of at least 119 individuals and the use of coercive interrogation techniques—in some cases amounting to torture,” a press release posted on Feinstein’s official website quoted her as saying.

 

The executive summary and additional information is available on Senator Feinstein’s website.

 

The report has attracted reaction from politicians who, like President Obama, termed the interrogation practices cited in the report at odds with American values. Congressman Jerry Nadler (NY-10), former Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, was one of them who, in a statement, expressed his “outrage” over the practices described in the report.

 

Nadler said torture is “inconsistent with democratic principles of freedom” and has never proven to be more effective than other methods of interrogation and “did not produce any blockbuster intelligence while in use”.

 

He said he supported his colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee to advocate for a new round of hearings on the Senate CIA Torture report.

 

“I am also announcing today plans to reintroduce the American Anti-Torture Act of 2014, which would extend the Army Field Manual standards to all interrogations, ensuring that U.S. law has a single, uniform, baseline of treatment of prisoners. Additionally, the bill would clarify that interrogation techniques that are prohibited for use by the military’s own field manual on interrogations are similarly prohibited if used by the CIA or other government agencies. We must prohibit torture by law once and for all.”

 

Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said her vote to declassify the report did not signal her endorsement of all of its conclusions or its methodology “Despite these significant flaws, the report’s findings lead me to conclude that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture.”  In April 2014, Senator Collins was one of three Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee who voted in the committee to declassify the report. In a statement she said:

 

“The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) Review of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA’s) Detention and Interrogation Program devotes much of its report to supporting its judgment that enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) were ineffective in acquiring intelligence. While I agree with the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA’s) current position that it is “unknowable” whether or not its “enhanced interrogation techniques” elicited significant intelligence that would not otherwise have been obtained, the fact remains that torture is wrong. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the United States ratified in 1994, is clear: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

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