Obama Responds To CIA Torture Report: Enhanced Interrogation 'Contrary To Our Values'

12/09/2014 12:01 pm ET | Updated Dec 09, 2014
  • Ashley Alman Politics Social Media Editor, The Huffington Post

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a 500-page summary Tuesday of its report on the Central Intelligence Agency's torture program following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The report, a result of a five-year investigation, details the gruesome techniques and systemic failures of the CIA's post-9/11 practices.

President Barack Obama said the revelations bring light to a "troubling" program involving practices that were "contrary to our values" in a statement following the release.

"That is why I unequivocally banned torture when I took office, because one of our most effective tools in fighting terrorism and keeping Americans safe is staying true to our ideals at home and abroad," the president said.

"[I]t reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests."

Obama said he would continue to use his authority as president to ensure enhanced interrogation practices like those detailed in the Senate report are not used in the future.

In an interview with NBC News on Tuesday, Obama said that the torture program was set up hastily and lacked accountability.

"In the aftermath of 9/11, I think in the midst of a national trauma and uncertainty as to whether these attacks were going to repeat themselves, what's clear is that the CIA set up something very fast, without a lot of forethought to what the ramifications might be, that the lines of accountability that needed to be set up weren't always in place," Obama told NBC.

While Obama said that he was concerned that the information released in the report could endanger Americans overseas, he backed releasing the document to make sure that something similar didn't happen again.

"We need to acknowledge that, in part, to put in place systems that, if heaven forbid, we find ourselves under the types of threats that have occurred in the past, that we recognize the dangers ahead of time and do better," he said.

Read the president's full statement below:

Throughout our history, the United States of America has done more than any other nation to stand up for freedom, democracy, and the inherent dignity and human rights of people around the world. As Americans, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to our fellow citizens who serve to keep us safe, among them the dedicated men and women of our intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency. Since the horrific attacks of 9/11, these public servants have worked tirelessly to devastate core al Qaeda, deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupt terrorist operations and thwart terrorist attacks. Solemn rows of stars on the Memorial Wall at the CIA honor those who have given their lives to protect ours. Our intelligence professionals are patriots, and we are safer because of their heroic service and sacrifices.

In the years after 9/11, with legitimate fears of further attacks and with the responsibility to prevent more catastrophic loss of life, the previous administration faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al Qaeda and prevent additional terrorist attacks against our country. As I have said before, our nation did many things right in those difficult years. At the same time, some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values. That is why I unequivocally banned torture when I took office, because one of our most effective tools in fighting terrorism and keeping Americans safe is staying true to our ideals at home and abroad.

Today’s report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence details one element of our nation’s response to 9/11—the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which I formally ended on one of my first days in office. The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests. Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again.

As Commander in Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people. We will therefore continue to be relentless in our fight against al Qaeda, its affiliates and other violent extremists. We will rely on all elements of our national power, including the power and example of our founding ideals. That is why I have consistently supported the declassification of today’s report. No nation is perfect. But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better. Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong—in the past. Today is also a reminder that upholding the values we profess doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger and that the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.

Below, see more reactions from politicians following the report's release:

Politicians React To CIA Torture Report

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