The Central Intelligence Agency engaged in “brutal activity” in the years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Obama said in an interview with Fusion on Tuesday. The comments came hours after the release of a Senate report that included grisly accounts of torture under the agency’s detention and interrogation program.
“Unfortunately, the Senate report shows we engaged in some brutal activity after 9/11,” Obama told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos. “This is an accounting of some of the problems that the CIA program engaged in. I recognize that there’s controversy in terms of the details, but what’s not controversial is the fact that we did some things that violated who we are as a people.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee released the report after five years of investigation and significant friction among congressional Democrats, Republicans, the White House, and the CIA.
The report broadly condemned the CIA’s detention and interrogation techniques under the administration of President George W. Bush, casting them as horrific and out of bounds while not leading to any significant gathering of intelligence.
In the interview with Fusion, Obama declined to directly criticize Bush, but he said it was clear some people in the administration had made “some terrible mistakes.”
“I don’t think you can know what it feels like to know that America’s gone through the worst attack on the continental United States in its history, and you’re uncertain as to what’s coming next,” Obama told Ramos.
“So there were a lot of people who did a lot of things right and worked really hard to keep us safe. But I think that any fair-minded person looking at this would say that some terrible mistakes were made in allowing these kinds of practices to take place. In part, because I think study after study has shown that when people get tortured, when people are beaten, when people are put in a position of severe stress and pain, oftentimes they’re willing to say anything to alleviate that stress and pain. So the information we get isn’t necessarily better than doing things the right way.
“My goal is to make sure, having banned this practice as one of the first things I did when I came into office, that we don’t make that mistake again.”
When asked if he could categorically say that no one under his administration has engaged in torture, Obama said anyone who would be doing so would be breaking the law.
“I can categorically say that anybody who engaged in any behavior like this would be directly violating my executive orders and my policies as president of the United States, and would be held into account, and would be breaking the law,” Obama said.