CIA Torture Report: White House Mum on Whether Methods Saved Lives

Obama spokesman says that harsh interrogations “undermined our moral authority."

ByABC News
December 10, 2014, 12:52 PM

— -- President Obama has condemned what he calls "torture" of detainees by CIA interrogators at black sites overseas in the dark days after 9/11.

But the White House is not taking a position on whether any of the information gleaned from those sessions -- putting questions on the propriety of the tactics aside -- actually helped to save lives.

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The administration also refuses to say whether Obama shares the view of his own CIA director, John Brennan, who said on Tuesday that intelligence gained from enhanced interrogation techniques did in fact help to "thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives."

"The most important question is: Should we have done it? And the answer to that question is no," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told ABC News' Jonathan Karl today.

"The president does not believe that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques was good for our national security. He does not believe that it was good for our moral authority. In fact, he believes that it undermined our moral authority, and that is why he banned them," he said.

Under repeated questioning, Earnest refused to answer whether those interrogations ultimately saved lives as current and former CIA officials allege. He did say the White House believes the tactics were "not worth it."

Colorado Senator: 'The President Needs To Purge His Administration'

Meanwhile, in a blistering 48-minute speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., accused the CIA of continuing to lie about the detention and interrogation program used during President George W. Bush’s administration.

“Director Brennan and the CIA today are continuing to willfully provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the efficacy of torture. In other words, the CIA is lying,” Udall, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said. The outgoing Colorado senator pointed to the classified Panetta Review, the secret study led by then-CIA Director Leon Panetta, as evidence that the CIA is lying about the enhanced interrogation techniques used post 9/11.

Udall repeated his call for Brennan to resign and also urged President Obama to “purge his administration” of any officials responsible for implementing and developing the post 9/11 interrogation program.

“Torture didn’t just happen after all,” Udall said. “Real actual people engage in torture. Some of these people are still employed by the CIA and the U.S. government. They are right now people serving in high level positions."

“The president needs to purge his administration of high level officials who were instrumental to the development and running of this program,” Udall said. “He needs to force a cultural change at the CIA.”