President Barack Obama criticized the United States for some of its actions following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, using the phrase “torture” to describe interrogation techniques used.
“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,” Obama told reporters during a White House news conference Friday. “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.”
The White House released a report to Congress Friday about new details of interrogations of terrorism suspects to get information.
“My hope is that this report reminds us once again that, you know, the character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy but what we do when things are hard,” Obama said. “When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line. and that needs to be understood and accepted.”
But Obama said it’s important not to “feel too sanctimonious,” given the fear following the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
“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,” Obama said. “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, there were some things that were wrong and that’s what that report reflects,” Obama continued. “And that’s the reason why after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.”
Obama said he has full confidence in CIA Director John Brennan, who apologized to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after revelations that the CIA hacked committee computers during an investigation into document leaks pertaining to an inquiry into the interrogation techniques.
“I have full confidence in John Brennan,” Obama said. “I think he has acknowledged and directly apologized to Senator Feinstein that CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation as to how certain documents that were not authorized to be released to Senate staff got somehow into the hands of the Senate staff, and it’s clear from the IG report that some very poor judgment was shown in terms of how that was handled.”