TRANSCRIPT: CIA Director John Brennan Addresses Senate's Report on CIA Interrogation Program

Chief spy took questions at rare public speech defending agency.

ByABC News
December 11, 2014, 4:00 PM

— -- [Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan spoke Dec. 11, 2014 at a rare, public press conference at CIA headquarters to address a recently released Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation practices post-9/11. Below is an unofficial transcript made by the Federal News Service and provided by the CIA.]

DIRECTOR JOHN BRENNAN: It was 8:46 a.m. on the morning of September 11th, 2001, when the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City was struck by an aircraft commandeered by al-Qaida terrorists. Seventeen minutes later, the clear blue skies of Manhattan were pierced yet again by another hijacked aircraft, this one tearing into the adjacent South Tower.

At 9:37, the Pentagon, the proud symbol and heart of the nation’s military, suffered a similar attack. And at 10:03, a fourth plane shattered the serene landscape of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as its passengers refused to allow al-Qaida to use one more plane as a missile to strike our homeland.

In the short span of 77 minutes, four terrorist attacks would forever change the history of our country. They would rob us of nearly 3,000 lives. It would ultimately cost us trillions of dollars. And they would plunge us into a seemingly never-ending war against a globally dispersed collection of terrorists with a murderous agenda.

As deputy executive director of CIA on that morning of 9/11, I knew what it was like to belong to an intelligence agency that had been ringing the bell for many months about al-Qaida’s plans to attack. All of us at CIA were devastated that al-Qaida operatives were able to carry out such horrific attacks in near simultaneous fashion and on American soil.

And while I remember walking the halls of CIA that day to ensure that as many agency officers as possible had left the building, as our headquarters here in Langley, Virginia, was reportedly on al-Qaida’s target list, I also remember that the men and women in our counterterrorism center stayed at their posts despite the danger. They worked through that day and that night and the following days and the following nights to piece together the clues as to what plans were underway to carry out yet more attacks. Their CIA brothers and sisters who were dispersed around the globe, many in dangerous environments, did the same thing.

Only 15 days after 9/11, on September 26th, it was CIA that put the first American boots on the ground in Afghanistan. And less than two months after arriving, the United States suffered its first casualty in Afghanistan when a 32-year-old CIA officer named Mike Span (ph) was killed in action on November 25th in Mazar-e Sharif. Since Mike’s death, 20 other CIA officers have lost their lives around the world at the hands of terrorists.

The events of 9/11 will be forever seared into the memories of all Americans who bore witness to the single greatest tragedy to befall our homeland in recent history. Not only were our consciences shocked and our hearts and souls ripped open, so too our collective national sense of homeland security was shattered, much like the steel, concrete, flesh, bone and lives during those fateful 77 minutes.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, our nation ached, it cried, and it prayed. And in our pain, we pledged to come together as one and to do what we could to prevent Osama bin Laden and his killing machine from ever carrying out another attack against our beautiful country. Never again, we vowed. Never again.

But al-Qaida had other ideas, as well as additional operatives and more plans to strike us, again and again. With a globally distributed network that had stealthily concealed itself in many countries over many continents, al-Qaida was poised, ready and prepared to pursue its violent agenda.

Our government and our citizens recognized the urgency of the task: to find and stop al-Qaida before it could shed the blood of more innocent men, women and children, be it in America or be it in any other corner of the world. And as has been the case throughout its then 54-year history, CIA was looked to for answers, not only to the questions on the threats we faced but also to questions about what we were going to do to stop future attacks.

The CIA’s mission in the wake of the 9/11 attacks would be a multidimensional one. Stopping al-Qaida would require the CIA to work closely with the – with its intelligence community, military, homeland security and law enforcement partners, as well as with numerous intelligence and security services around the globe.

To be successful, CIA officers knew that they needed speed, agility, courage, resources and, most important, intelligence. Their mission was to acquire, through human and technical operations, and then to analyze with deep expertise, whatever bits and pieces of information might help fill out the menacing yet incomplete puzzle of al-Qaida’s terrorist plans.

Indeed, there were numerous credible and very worrisome reports about a second and third wave of major attacks against the United States. And while we grieved, while we honored our dead, while we tended to our injured and while we embarked on the long process of recovery, we feared more blows from an enemy we couldn’t see and an evil we couldn’t fathom. This is the backdrop against which the agency was directed by President Bush to carry out a program to detain terrorist suspects around the world.

In many respects, the program was uncharted territory for the CIA and we were not prepared. We had little experience housing detainees, and precious few of our officers were trained interrogators. But the president authorized the effort six days after 9/11, and it was our job to carry it out.

Over time, enhanced interrogation techniques, EITs, which the Department of Justice determined at the time to be lawful and which were duly authorized by the Bush administration, were introduced as a method of interrogation. As concerns about al-Qaida’s terrorist plans endured, a variety of these techniques were employed by CIA officers on several dozen detainees over the course of five years, before they ended in December of 2007. The legal advice under which they were authorized subsequently has been revoked.

When the president came into office in January 2009, he took the position that these techniques were contrary to our values and he unequivocally banned their use. He has consistently expressed the view that these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners, something I have experienced firsthand.

But as the president stated this week, the previous administration faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al-Qaida and prevent additional terrorist attacks against our country. While facing fears of further attacks and carrying out the responsibility to prevent more catastrophic loss of life, there were no easy answers. And whatever your views are on EITs, our nation and in particular this agency did a lot of things right during this difficult time to keep this country strong and secure.

The same year the techniques were banned by the president, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the SSCI, initiated an in-depth review of the detention and interrogation program. The CIA’s implementation of the detention and interrogation program is a very legitimate oversight issue. And we gave the committee our full support, providing an unprecedented amount of sensitive CIA documents to the committee and devoting considerable resources to help it with its review. Our hope was that it would offer an impartial and authoritative assessment of the program, help us learn from our mistakes, and inform how we conduct sensitive activities in the future.

Unfortunately, the committee could not agree on a bipartisan way forward and no CIA personnel were interviewed by the committee during the course of the investigation.

This was unusual. In the vast majority of cases, SSCI’s congressional reports have been the result of collaborative, bipartisan investigations. Over the course of my career, I have seen the value of the committee’s reviews.

Even on politically sensitive matters, such as the SSCI’s investigation into the intelligence failures regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the committee succeeded in producing a report that was supported unanimously. In that case, the committee reviewed tens of thousands of documents and conducted interviews with more than 200 officers from the intelligence community – some of whom were interviewed up to four times.

This week, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the executive summary, findings and conclusions of its study of the agency’s former detention and interrogation program. Vice Chairman Chambliss, joined by five other senators, also released the minority views. The authors clearly worked very hard to produce a report of this magnitude. Over several years, they sorted through over a million documents provided by the CIA. And their commitment to the task is obvious.

Although we view the process undertaken by the committee when investigating the program as flawed, many aspects of their conclusions are sound and consistent with our own prior findings. Over the years, internal agency reviews, including numerous investigations by our Office of the Inspector General, found fault in CIA’s running of the program. We have acknowledged many of these mistakes in our response to the study last year. And I will touch on some of them today.

Acknowledging our mistakes and absorbing the lessons of the past is fundamental to our ability to succeed in our mission and is one of the great strengths of this organization. Even today, we know there are further organizational improvements to be made as a result of our review of the study. And we are pursuing them.

As I have already noted, the CIA was unprepared to conduct a detention and interrogation program, and our officers inadequately developed and monitored its initial activities. The agency failed to establish quickly the operational guidelines needed to govern the entire effort. In a limited number of cases, agency officers used interrogation techniques that had not been authorized, were abhorrent and rightly should be repudiated by all. And we fell short when it came to holding some officers accountable for their mistakes.

It is vitally important to recognize, however, that the overwhelming majority of officers involved in the program at CIA carried out their responsibilities faithfully and in accordance with the legal and policy guidance they were provided. They did what they were asked to do in the service of our nation. In fact, some of these officers raised objections and concerns with the program and with its implementation, which is crucial to ensuring that the system works as it should and that we are able to adjust as needed.

But CIA officers’ actions that did comport with the law and policy should neither be criticized nor conflated with the actions of the few who did not follow the guidance issued.

At the same time, none of these lapses should be excused, downplayed or denied. In some instances, we simply failed to live up to the standards that we set for ourselves, that the American people expect of us.

To address the concerns identified, the CIA has implemented a number of reforms in an effort to make sure those mistakes never happen again.

For example, as a result of our own investigations and our review of the committee’s report, CIA has taken steps to broaden the scope of our accountability reviews, strengthen the planning, management, oversight and evaluation of our covert action programs, systematically reexamine the legal opinions underlying our sensitive programs and improve our recordkeeping for interactions with the Congress. We are also carefully observing the new statutory requirement to provide our oversight committees with notice of any significant legal interpretation of the constitution or other U. S. law affecting intelligence activities conducted by the CIA.

As to the issues on which we part ways with the committee. I have already stated that our reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation program produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives. But let me be clear: We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable.

Irrespective of the role EITs might play in a detainee’s provision of useful information, I believe effective, non-coercive methods are available to elicit such information; methods that do not have a counterproductive impact on our national security and on our international standing. It is for these reasons that I fully support the president’s decision to prohibit the use of EITs.

Another key point with which we take issue is the study’s characterization of how CIA briefed the program to the Congress, the media and within the executive branch, including at the White House. The record simply does not support the study’s inference that the agency repeatedly, systematically and intentionally misled others on the effectiveness of the program.

To be clear, there were instances where representations that the program – about the program that were used or approved by agency officers were inaccurate, imprecise or fell short of our tradecraft standards. We have acknowledged such mistakes. And I have been firm in declaring that they were unacceptable for an agency whose reputation and value to the policymaker rests on the precision of the language it uses every day in intelligence reporting and analysis.

Primarily, however, the study’s contention that we repeatedly and intentionally misled the public and the rest of the U.S. government rests on the committee’s view that detainees subjected to EITs did not produce useful intelligence, a point on which we still fundamentally disagree.

Now, there should be sufficient trust and credibility between our institutions, enabling us to disagree at times but also to come together and listen to each other’s perspectives. Our partnership with Congress is crucial. In my view, there is no more important oversight relationship than the CIA relationship with its intelligence committees, particularly because we do so much of our work in secret that Congress serves as a critical check on our activities, closely monitoring the agency’s reporting and programs when the public cannot.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the study is that it conveys a broader view of the CIA and its officers as untrustworthy, that the institution and the workforce were willing to forgo their integrity in order to preserve a program they were invested in and supposedly believed to be right.

This is no way comports with my experience in the CIA. While the agency has a traditional bias for action and a determined focus on achieving our mission, we take exceptional pride in providing truth to power, whether that power likes or agrees with what we believe and what we say or not and regardless of whether that power is affiliated with any particular political party. And as long as I am director, I will continue to defend and fight for these ideals as CIA’s legitimacy is closely tied to its credibility and we can afford to lose neither.

We know we have room to improve. And I am committed to addressing the issues identified by the committee that remain a concern. In light of the fact that these techniques were abandoned seven years ago, however, my fervent hope is that we can put aside this debate and move forward to focus on issues that are relevant to our current national security challenges. In doing so, this agency will only grow stronger. And it is my hope that we can do so under the oversight of the committee in the collaborative and constructive manner that the American people expect of us.

I pledge to do my part to facilitate such a relationship as we move forward to address the many challenging national security issues we face. I first joined CIA in 1980. Over the course of my career, I have come to experience and appreciate the CIA’s many national security accomplishments. Most CIA successes will never be known, as we are an intelligence service that carries out its mission without fanfare and without seeking praise. And I’ve come to admire and – greatly – the women and men who come from all over the United States to make up the CIA’s workforce. They are among the best and brightest our nation has to offer.

Over the last several days we here at CIA have been touched by the outpouring of support, confidence, pride and gratitude our colleagues in government have expressed both publicly and privately regarding the work of this agency. These expressions of kindness and support have truly been inspiring.

As the president said in his own statement, as Americans, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to our fellow citizens who serve to keep us safe. The 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.

These stars are a testament to our history and our spirit, and a consistent reminder of the women and men who make sacrifices daily so that they can help keep their fellow Americans safe and our country strong.

And now I’ll be glad to address any questions you might have.

STAFF: As we start, it’s Siobhan’s last day.

Q: Siobhan Gorman with The Wall Street Journal. Two-part questions, and thank you very much for taking questions.

The first is, did you support the public release of the Senate report? And the second is just if you could clarify your stance on the EITs a little bit. If I recall, the agency’s argument for the – their use was that they were necessary to obtain information that couldn’t be obtained another way that would save lives, and I’m wondering if that’s the – if that’s something that you agree with, that that’s what they did or what they were for.

DIR. BRENNAN: Well, first of all, Siobhan, thank you for your service and (for this date ?) as you head off to do something else.

Q: Thank you.

DIR. BRENNAN: I made my known – my views known about this report, its contents as well as its disposition, throughout the course of this process. And I participated in the discussions that were held on it. And as you can well imagine, the counsel that I give to the DNI, the White House, is something that I take very seriously, but also it is something that I keep to myself. So they knew my views. I continue to express them.

Q: You can’t share them with us, in the interest of transparency?

DIR. BRENNAN: (Chuckles.) I think there’s more than enough transparency that has happened over the last couple days. I think it’s over the top.

As far as EITs, I think there is – as I said in my remarks – there is no way if some – to know whether or not some information that was obtained from an individuals who had been subjected at some point during his confinement could have been obtained through other means. It’s just – it’s an unknowable fact.

So I think the – what the agency’s point has been consistently, and what certainly my view is after having reviewed the documents, is that there was useful intelligence – very useful, valuable intelligence that was obtained from individuals who had been at some point subjected to the EITs. Whether that could have been obtained without the use of those EITs is something, again, that is unknowable.

Again, I think as others have said – recently with the president – you miss the point that what I think going forward we want to do is to make sure that we’re able to do what is necessary to protect this country. And we have a very robust counterterrorism program underway right now. We’re working with our partners abroad to make sure that we’re able to obtain this information from individuals who are captured, and that we’re able to gain some access to. Thank you.

STAFF: (Inaudible.)

Q: Thanks. Ken Delaney. I’m from the Associated Press. Director Brennan, do you agree with President Obama’s statement that the CIA, in common parlance, tortured detainees?

And then secondly, Senator Udall gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor yesterday about something called the Panetta Review, which he called the smoking gun that he says proves the CIA is continuing to lie about this program, and he said that’s a document prepared by CIA insiders.

I know you disagree with his characterization, but why not release the Panetta Review so we can all be the judge of that?

DIR. BRENNAN: First of all, I certainly agree that there were times when CIA officers exceeded the policy guidance that was given and the authorized techniques that were approved and determined to be lawful. They went outside of the bounds in terms of their actions that – as part of that interrogation process. And they were harsh, as I said, in some instances, I consider them abhorrent and I will leave to others to how they might want to label those activities. But for me, it was something that is certainly regrettable.

But we are not a perfect institution. We’re made up of individuals. And as human beings, we are imperfect beings. But as I think we have acknowledged over the years, we have brought those mistakes, shortcomings and excesses to the attention of the appropriate authorities, whether it be to our inspector general, to the Department of Justice and others. As you well know, the Department of Justice looked at this for many years and decided that there was no prosecutable crimes there.

As far as the so-called Panetta Review, I believe this is in reference to an internal document created here at the agency when in the interests of trying to fulfill our responsibility to the Oversight Committee, Leon Panetta had authorized the release of, as I mentioned, over 1 million documents to the committee. And so he also asked at that time that there be an inventory pulled together of exactly what documents were provided. This was an internal document that was never completed and it’s one that I believe is a(n) internal deliberative document and therefore something that was not subject to the committee’s oversight.

In addition, it was outside of the scope of the period of time that was covered by the agreement that was worked between Senator Feinstein and Leon Panetta about the documents that would be provided to the committee. It was subsequent to that.

STAFF: Reuters? (Off mic.)

Q: Mark Hosenball from Reuters. You say on the first page of your statement that you were deputy executive director of the agency on 9/11. Tell us a bit about your involvement in that role and perhaps subsequent roles in this program. I mean, as deputy executive director, presumably you had some role in managing or arranging parts of the program. What did you actually do in relation to this program and did you ever at any point express reservations about the way it was being carried out while it was going on?

DIR. BRENNAN: As deputy executive director, I was the equivalent of the deputy chief operating officer who had responsibility to make sure that all the different support systems and services here at the agency were providing the support to the mission elements. And so after 9/11, I worked with others to make sure that our officers, whether they be overseas or here, have what they needed to get their job done. In that position, I was aware of the detention interrogation program. I had some visibility into some of the activities that were there. I was not in the chain of command; I did not have authority over the implementation of that program or the management oversight of it.

Q: Thanks for doing this. Tom Bowman with NPR. I wonder if you could clarify something. You say here that we have not concluded that there was use of EITs within the program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. And then you say, in the following page, the committee’s view that detainees subjected to EITs did not produce useful intelligence, a point on which we disagree. So which is it? Did the EITs lead to useful intelligence or did they not, or do you just – you said it’s unknowable? Which is it?

DIR. BRENNAN: What I said was that detainees who were subjected to EITs at some point during their confinement subsequently provided information that our experts found to be useful and valuable in our counterterrorism efforts, and the cause and effect relationship between the application of those EITs and the ultimate provision of information is unknown and unknowable. But for someone to say that there was no intelligence of value, of use, that came from those detainees once they were subjected to EITs, I think that is – lacks any foundation at all.

STAFF: Andrea.

Q: Let me follow up on that what seems to be an inherent conflict. The agency’s position, and its defenders’, has been that in particular one of its signal successes, the takedown of Osama bin Laden, could be attributed to the use of what the president and others have called torture, what you prefer to call enhanced interrogation techniques. Do you think the bin Laden case can be attributed in some part to enhanced interrogation techniques or torture?

And you’ve acknowledged in your own experience that what the president described as difficulties in relationships with allies has resulted from this chapter in American history. Can you expand on that, how you have experienced difficulties as a result of what has been disclosed?

And finally, if there is some unknowable value to these techniques – to water boarding, near drowning, slamming people against the wall, hanging them in stress positions, confining them in small boxes or coffins, threatening them with drills, waving guns around their head as they are blindfolded – what or which of these techniques could be used if, as the director of central intelligence, you and another president, or this president, were faced with an imminent threat? Could there be another covert finding and rulings and advice from the attorney general that would lead you and your successors to say, we should do this because there could be some value to prevent an attack on America?

DIR. BRENNAN: First question, on bin Laden: It is our considered view that the detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques provided information that was useful and was used in the ultimate operation to go against bin Laden. Again, intelligence information from the individuals who were subjected to EITs provided information that was used in that. Again, I am not going to attribute that to the use of the EITs; just going to state as a matter of fact, the information that they provided was used.

As far as the relationships with others that sometimes are complicated, I think we see in the international press right now there is a lot of scrutiny being paid to what different partners did during that period of time. And I think there’s a lot of hyperbole that is now fueling the discussion, the debate, and also then is harmful to continuing our intelligence cooperation, because there is a lot of exaggeration, misrepresentation of the facts, and therefore I think certain agendas are being pursued. And so I certainly wish that this would not be happening.

And then finally, as far as what happens if, in the future, there is some type of challenge that we face here, the Army Field Manual is the established basis to use for interrogations. We, CIA, are not in the detention program. We are not contemplating at all getting back into the detention program using any of those EITs. So I defer to the policymakers in future times when there is going to be the need to be able to ensure that this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis.

Q: Can I just clarify one point?

MODERATOR: Actually, sorry, CNN?

Q: One thing that I hear, was the useful information on bin Laden before the torture or the waterboarding even used?

DIR. BRENNAN: There was information obtained subsequent to the application of EITs from detainees that was useful in the bin Laden operation.

MODERATOR: Dana (ph)?

Q: Mr. Director, right now your agency is involved in overseeing the drone program in which we know from the government’s own statements, you know, that there have been some civilians, innocent civilians, killed alongside terrorists. I’m wondering if you feel that there’s enough control over those programs and that we’re not going to be here in a few years with another director having to answer these same questions about the loss of trust from the public from policymakers.

DIR. BRENNAN: I’m not going to talk about any type of operational activity that this agency is involved in currently. I’m just not going to do it. I will tell you, though, that during my tenure at the White House as the president’s assistant for counterterrorism, that the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles that you refer to as drones in the counterterrorism effort has done tremendous work to keep this country safe.

The ability to use these platforms and advanced technologies, it has advanced the counterterrorism mission and the U.S. military has done some wonderful things with these platforms. And in terms of precision of effort, accuracy and making sure that this country, this country’s military does everything possible to minimize, to the greatest extent possible, the loss of life of noncombatants. I think there’s a lot for this country and this White House and the military to be proud of.

MODERATOR: (Off mic.)

Q: Director Brennan, Catherine Herridge, Fox News. Thank you for taking my question. Have you heard from our allies overseas since the report was released the impact on these relationships? Has it reinforced the view that the United States government cannot keep a secret? What has the impact been on morale here at the agency? And in 2005, interrogation videotapes were destroyed. Was that the right thing to do?

DIR. BRENNAN: I have spoken to many of my foreign counterparts over the past week to allow them opportunity to prepare for the release of this document in the event that there was going to be any implications for them as a result of either information that was contained in this document and then could be correlated with other information that’s out there and which leads to speculation about what their countries, their governments, their services might have done.

And so yes, I’ve spoken to many of them, and there was strong concern. There are things that we do with our partners services under our authorities that we have covert action authorities, and “covert” is something that they were hoping that was going to remain such. But what I’ve told them is that it’s important for our partnership to move forward and to strengthen in the years ahead because of the nature of the national security challenges we face, and so I am interested in making sure that we’re able to do that.

As far as morale here at the agency, this is a tremendous, tremendous workforce, as I said. I had a session with the agency workforce yesterday, talked about the importance of the mission. And the CIA’s mission is as important today as it was before this report came out, and it’s going to be even more important tomorrow. And one of the great things about this workforce is it’s able to focus on what it is that they have to do. CIA officers are operating in some very, very dangerous places and are doing this on behalf of their fellow Americans. And so there is some concern and disappointment about what has happened. There certainly is concern about the misrepresentations that they think are circulating now out in the public. But they are determined to make sure that they’re able to do what they need to do.

What was the third one?

Q: (Off mic.)

DIR. BRENNAN: I think that has been looked at quite a bit over the years, and people take actions at the time when they – what believe is the right thing to do. I’m going to leave it at that.

Q: Martha Raddatz, ABC News. Thanks for taking the questions today, sir.

You say it’s unknowable whether EITs in fact led to useful information or it was just detainees who were subjected to that. Was this a question that was asked at the time? This went on for five years. Or were senior officials told you couldn’t get any information except through the EITs that was so valuable? And also my second question to you, back to thinking about those methods of interrogation that we all read about in the report, you say some are abhorrent – can you tell me when to you, the officers or interrogators crossed the line?

DIR. BRENNAN: On your first question, which is a good one – what was the nature of the discussion and how did people decide to continue to go forward with these EITs? Do they feel as though that was the only way that they were going – able to obtain information? Those are good questions. And I wish the committee took the opportunity to ask CIA officers who were involved in the program at the time, what were you thinking? What did you consider? What was the calculus that you used as far as going forward on this?

I think as you can well understand, everything that CIA officers did and said at the time was not memorialized in a document. There were a lot of discussions that were going on. And I know that when I have various discussions and meetings here, I don’t run back and just do a memo for the record; I’d just be doing nothing but memos all day. So I think by just a review of the documentary evidence, of all the documents that were provided by the agency, it loses – you lose the opportunity to really understand what was taking place at the time, it loses that context, and again, I think it’s lamentable that the committee did not avail itself of the opportunity to be able to interact with CIA personnel.

Q: Well, do you think it was – (off mic) – in its mission?

DIR. BRENNAN: I look back at the record, and I see that this was a workforce that was trying to do the right thing.

I cannot say with certainty whether or not individuals acted with complete honesty. When I look at what went on at the time, there are clearly the questions about why certain techniques were used. And to your question about which of those do I consider beyond that, I think anything that went outside the bounds of those enhanced interrogation techniques – this agency went back and forth with Justice, with the White House to make sure that there was clear understanding of what were going to be the approved enhanced interrogation techniques and how they should be applied. I said we were not prepared, and the individuals that were given the responsibility to carry out this work early on were ones that were trying to do their best and, I think, at times came up short.


Q: Yeah, Mr. Director, Bob Orr from CBS. Thanks for taking the question.

You talked about your workforce. You have men and women in the field now confronting threats in a number of places, and you’re asking them to do difficult things. What have you told them about how you will cover their back in the event that down the road another committee looks at their actions today and judges them out of bounds? And do you think, moreover, you have the full support of your workforce?

DIR. BRENNAN: So this workforce continues to be focused on mission, and I think the leadership team here has gotten together and has engaged with the workforce to make sure that they feel genuinely that they have the support of their leadership as well as their government. And I am determined to make sure that I continue to give them the support they need and that they deserve.

So this is going to be a chapter in our history. It’s one they’re going to work through, and I am determined to make sure that as we go forward with the committee, that there is a better understanding on what exactly it is that we do.

I think we keep the committee very fully informed about our activities right now, and one of the things I want to make sure is that on the sensitive programs that we’re involved in, that it’s not just CIA’s leadership that has their back, it’s the policymakers that approved these sensitive programs, it is the committees that oversee them and are briefed on them, and that’s why we’re determined to make sure that they have the visibility that they need so that our officers can feel that they’re going to have the support in the future irrespective of changes that might take place in the Congress or in the White House.

STAFF: (Off mic.)

Q: Mr. Director, thank you. Jonathan Landay with McClatchy. The report said it found evidence that suggested that waterboarding was used on more than the three individuals that the agency has identified as undergoing waterboarding. Can you categorically say that those were the only three people who were waterboarded, or is it possible that more were? Thank you.

DIR. BRENNAN: One of the things I’ve learned in life, I guess, is to avoid being categorical. What I will say, based on everything that I’ve seen, what I’ve read, it indicates there were three individuals that were subjected to that. And I can only tell you what I am aware of, what I have read and the data I have observed. And so I will stand by that at this time.

Let’s do just a couple more.

STAFF: (Off mic) – for the last question.

Q: Dan De Luce, Agence France Press. Just wanted to ask first, then, if the agency has changed its view of the efficacy of torture or EITs, because in 1989 apparently there was a report or a correspondence with Congress that indicated that the agency believed those techniques were not effective.

And then also, your own wording – I was interested in if you still stood by what you said that in 2009 – you said that these techniques a recruitment bonanza for terrorists and increased the determination of our enemies and decreased the willingness of other nations to cooperate with us. In short, they undermine our national security. Or do you – would you maybe have a different view now?

DIR. BRENNAN: I stand by my comments from previously when I was at the White House. I spoke out on these issues. And it was at the time when these techniques were banned. And it was a time when there was a fair amount of propaganda as well as anti-U.S. sentiments related to Guantanamo as well as other issues. And so these are things that I think we, as professionals in the national security environment, tried to take into account. And so this is a feature, I think, of our past and one that we have to come to terms with and deal with. And this agency is determined to move forward.

The first part of the question –

Q: (Off mic.)

DIR. BRENNAN: Oh, yes. You know, that’s the one thing about – and whether it’s the intelligence business or national security or something – you can always find something that you can pull out and say the agency said this or judged this or this was a conclusion at that time. And now it’s going to be different. A lot of times there are differences of views. It was one of the things that the WMD Commission encouraged there to be – a diversity of views within the intelligence community so there wouldn’t be single groupthink.

And so there have been a lot of studies done over the years about the value of different types of interrogation methods and whether or not coercive methods can lead to useful information that could be otherwise obtained. I tend to believe that the use of coercive methods has a strong prospect for resulting in false information because if somebody is being subjected to coercive techniques they may say something to have those techniques stopped.

And I think this agency has said that individuals who are subjected to those techniques here provided useful information as well as false information. And as our experts try to pour through a lot of data and information, that job is made more challenging if you get more false information.

Thank you.

STAFF: Thank you. Thanks for coming. (Inaudible.)


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