WASHINGTON — President Obama said flatly Friday that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used against prisoners by the CIA in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 were torture.
“We tortured some folks,” Obama said at a White House press conference.
The president banned the CIA interrogation techniques immediately upon taking office in January 2009.
Obama campaigned against the techniques in 2008 and has condemned them in past speeches, even using the word torture in relation to them. But, while addressing the brewing scandal at the CIA over revelations that agents spied on Senate staffers investigating them, firmly reiterated one of his administration’s strongest points of contrast with its Republican predecessor, which strongly defended the CIA interrogation tactics.
Obama’s full answer on torture from Friday’s press conference:
With respect to the larger point of the RDI report itself, 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 that were contrary to our values.
I understand why it happened. I — I think it — it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the twins 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 — it — it — it is important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And 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. 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. And my hope is, 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. And — and — and when we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line. And — and that needs to be — that needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to as a country take responsibility for that so that hopefully we don’t do it again in the future.