Stating in the clearest language so far on the debate of American use of torture on prisoners during interrogations, President Obama said that any objective person confronted with the facts would say that the US acted immorally during prisoner interviews during the Bush administration.
“We tortured some folks,” Obama said during a White House news conference Friday. “When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line. And that needs to be understood and accepted.”
Obama’s speech was interpreted as unambiguous support for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s goal of recording, understanding and analyzing all aspects of interrogation practices such as water boarding used by the Bush administration during the war on terror.
Human rights and civil liberties groups were worried that Obama would try and find a compromise position between the Senate committee’s report and former CIA personnel and Bush administration officials who have been trying to defend the CIA by scrutinizing the Senate committee’s report.
The strength of the remarks seems to have allayed such fears, while still expressing sympathy for the interrogators and their unique circumstances.
”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 did some things that were contrary to our values,” Obama said. “I understand why it happened. It’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were.”
“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. It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots,” the president said.
“But, having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that’s what that report reflects,” Obama added.