The Slatest

Obama Won’t Say That Torture Was Ineffective

Obama and current CIA Director John Brennan.

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President Obama will not “engage” in a “debate” over whether the CIA’s torture of terrorism detainees produced useful intelligence, an anonymous administration official said in responding to the Tuesday release of a Senate Intelligence Committee report. A New York Times piece published today describes the president trying to play both sides of the issue:

The written statement Mr. Obama released in response to the report tried to straddle that divide. He opened by expressing appreciation to C.I.A. employees as “patriots” to whom “we owe a debt of gratitude” for trying to protect the country after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Then he judged that the methods they used in doing so “did significant damage to America’s standing in the world.”

And finally, Mr. Obama asked the nation to stop fighting about what happened so many years ago before he took office. “Rather than another reason to refight old arguments,” he said, “I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong — in the past.”

The Senate report, citing CIA documents, argues that torture was ineffective in producing useful intelligence for the United States’ post-9/11 campaigns against al-Qaida. In the search for Osama Bin Laden, the report says specifically, the “vast majority” of valuable information obtained by the agency was uncovered by methods besides “enhanced interrogation”—including details about a crucial Bin Laden courier that was given to the CIA by a detainee before he was tortured. The CIA has disputed the Senate report’s assertions.

While Obama banned the use of torture as one of his first acts in office and has admitted that Americans did torture post-9/11 detainees, his administration has not prosecuted any individuals on torture-related charges.