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White House

President Obama: CIA's Post-9/11 Torture Was 'Contrary to Who We Are'

CIA intelligence-gathering techniques detailed in the Senate's torture report are "contrary to who we are," President Barack Obama said.
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LONDON— CIA intelligence-gathering techniques used in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and detailed in the Senate's torture report are "contrary to who we are," President Barack Obama said in an exclusive interview.

Asked whether he agreed with George W. Bush's view that CIA interrogators should be considered "patriots," Obama said they "do a really tough job and they do it really well."

But the president insisted that "we've got better ways of doing things" than resorting to the "brutal" tactics chronicled in the report.

"We took some steps that were contrary to who we are, contrary to our values,” Obama told José Díaz-Balart of Telemundo/MSNBC on Tuesday.

Even though "a lot of folks" worked very hard to keep the country safe during the uncertain times after terrorists hit the Pentagon and World Trade Center, Obama said some of the actions described in the report "constituted torture" and were "counterproductive."

Read the Senate Intelligence Committee report (PDF)

“Often times, when somebody is being subjected to these kinds of techniques ... they're willing to say anything in order to alleviate, you know, the pain and the stress that they're feeling,” he added.

Obama also said he was not worried that similar interrogation methods were being used today.

"I've been very explicit about how our intelligence gathering needs to conduct itself, and explicitly prohibited these kinds of techniques,” he said. “And so anybody who was doing the kinds of things that are described in the report would not simply be keeping something from me, they would be directly violating the orders that I've issued as president and commander in chief.”

When asked by Diaz-Balart how he might have reacted if he'd been president on 9/11, Obama said he didn't want to discuss hypothetical situations.

However, he added that "nobody can fully understand what it was like to be responsible for the safety and security of the American people in the aftermath of the worst attack on our national soil."

Obama said it was important that the Senate's torture report be released despite the intelligence community's fears that details within it could trigger anti-American violence overseas.

"One of the things that sets us apart from other countries is when we make mistakes, we admit them," he said.