Senator Launches Twitter War Against CIA Director Over Torture Report


CIA Director John Brennan said that the the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs) his agency used against terror suspects were, in some cases, “abhorrent” but stopped short of referring the controversial program as “torture.”

In a rare news conference at the Pentagon, Brennan acknowledged that the CIA made mistakes, although he refuted the notion that “the agency misled others on the effectiveness of the program.” Countering another key revelation of the report that the Senate Intelligence Committee released on Tuesday, Brennan said that it’s “unknowable” if the interrogation program resulted in intelligence gains. He opened his remarks with a lengthy description of the 9/11 attacks as a “backdrop” to the program.

“For someone to say that there was no intelligence of value or use that came from those detainees once they were subjected to EITs, I think that is lacks any foundation at all,” he said.

His comments were fiercely rebutted by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Twitter. Feinstein wrote 26 tweets as Brennan was speaking, some of which were retweeted hundreds of times by her followers.

Brennan, who was a deputy director of the CIA during the Bush administration when torture was carried out, hedged his answer to the question of whether the methods helped in the mission to locate Osama bin Laden.

“It is our considered view that the detainees that were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques providded information that was useful and was used in the ultimate operation to go against bin Laden.” However, he added, “I am not going to attribute that to the use of EITs.”

Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, took issue with the suggestion that, what she calls “torture,” might be justified by the intelligence it yields. She tweeted:

Brennan did not use the word “torture” and further denied that the actions carried out by the CIA were, on the whole, illegal.

To this point, Sen. Feinstein tweeted:

Brennan would not say that the interrogation methods used were illegal, and admitted only that a few individuals might have carried out actions that were not in accordance with the agency’s policies.

“I 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,” he said. “They went outside of the bounds and terms of their actions that as part of that interrogation process. And they were harsh, as I said. In some instances, I considered them abhorrent and I will leave to others how they might want to label those activities.”

President Barack Obama, for his part, has referred to the use of EITs as “torture” and banned their use when he took office in 2009, but has not weighed in on whether the CIA misled the Bush administration about their use.

Brennan said his agency hoped the Senate Committee’s investigation would “offer an impartial and authoritative assessment of the program,” he criticized it for “leaving no bipartisan way forward.” Sen. Feinstein pushed back against this allegation, noting that the investigation was initiated after being approved by a bi-partisan 14-1 vote from her committee.

“We gave the committee our full support,” The CIA director said, a point undermined by the fact that his agency hacked the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers used to research the Bush-era interrogation practices.

Brennan called the CIA’s interrogation methods “a very legitimate oversight issue.” But when asked by if, in the interest of transparency, he could address whether or not he supported the Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to release its report, he said, “I think there’s more than enough transparency that’s happened over the last couple days. I think it’s over the top.”