President Obama eschewed the opaque language of his predecessor on Friday and acknowledged that the United States engaged in “torture” after 9/11.
Obama made the comment while discussing CIA Director John Brennan, who was forced to apologize to members of Congress this week after an inquiry by the agency’s inspector general showed that it spied on Senate staffers.
The President said he had “full confidence in John Brennan” and acknowledged that CIA personnel “did not properly handle an investigation.”
From there, Obama weighed-in on a Senate intelligence report on the counter-terrorism efforts that defined post-9/11 American policy during George W. Bush’s presidency.
Even before I came into office, I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the twin towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And, you know, it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots, but having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that’s what that report reflects.
The comments were perhaps Obama’s strongest repudiation of measures such as waterboarding, which the Bush administration described as “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
In 2009, just 100 days after taking office, Obama described waterboarding as “torture.”
Obama banned those practices after taking office, but he did not seek prosecution against the officials who carried them out.