CIA director insists torture saved lives

John Brennan issues defiant response to Senate Intelligence Committee report

Published December 9, 2014 8:20PM (EST)

 John Brennan               (AP/Charles Dharapak)
John Brennan (AP/Charles Dharapak)

Responding to the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's executive summary on the Central Intelligence Agency's use of torture against terrorism suspects, CIA director John Brennan on Tuesday insisted that torture saved lives.

The committee's report found that CIA officials wildly exaggerated the value of the agency's so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. Of 20 "counterterrorism successes" cited by the agency, the report found that none stemmed from the use of torture tactics against detainees. In some of the cases, there was "no relationship" whatsoever between torture and the counterterrorism success, while in the remaining cases, detainees either corroborated information the CIA had already obtained or provided pertinent information prior to the use of torture. Still, the report noted, agency officials -- including former directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden -- publicly asserted that torture techniques helped thwart terror plots.

A defiant Brennan continued to toe that line today. While conceding that the agency "made mistakes," Brennan maintained that torture worked.

"Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives," Brennan said in a statement. "The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qa’ida and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day." Brennan proceeded to assail the report as "incomplete and selective."

In her foreword to to the committee's summary, Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein wrote that the full 6,700 page report, which has not been released, went into even further detail in demonstrating the inaccuracies of the CIA's claims that torture proved effective as a counterterrorism tactic.

"The full Committee Study also provides substantially more detail than what is included in the Executive Summary on the CIA's justification and defense of its interrogation program on the basis that it was necessary and critical to the disruption of specific terrorist plots and the capture of specific terrorists," Feinstein wrote. "While the Executive Summary provides sufficient detail to demonstrate the inaccuracies of each of these claims, the information in the full Committee Study is far more extensive."

Brennan, whom President Obama nominated to lead the CIA in 2013, was a leading figure in the development of the CIA's post-9/11 interrogation policies. A career agency employee, Brennan was deputy executive director to Tenet from 2001 to 2003 -- a key point of contention raised by opponents of Brennan's confirmation.

By Luke Brinker

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