White House: CIA chief a ‘professional and patriot’

The White House on Wednesday stood behind CIA Director John Brennan on Wednesday, after a Senate Democrat called for his resignation over the findings of the new report on “enhanced interrogations.”

Brennan in a statement released Tuesday acknowledged that the agency “made mistakes” but said the interrogations yielded “intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives.”

{mosads}White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that debate over effectiveness is irrelevant, because the practices had undermined the nation’s moral authority but praised Brennan as “a decorated professional and patriot.”

“Mr. Brennan worked here in the White House for four years as the president’s top homeland security adviser. And Mr. Brennan has continued his service as the director of the CIA. The president believes that he has done an exemplary job in both of those roles,” Earnest said.

The press secretary sidestepped accusations from some on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), that Brennan and the CIA are misleading lawmakers about the efficacy of the interrogation techniques. Udall called for Brennan to resign.

“We certainly would have the expectation that everybody in this administration, including everybody who works for the Central Intelligence Agency, would be truthful and honest with members of Congress, particularly when they’re under oath,” Earnest said.

Earnest also said President Obama is confident the Justice Department acted appropriately in opting not to bring criminal charges against intelligence officials.

Earnest was asked repeatedly if the president thought criminal charges should be filed after the release Tuesday of a Senate Intelligence Committee report that found CIA interrogators had subjected detainees to conditions the president himself described as “torture.”

The investigation found the CIA used sleep deprivation, rectal rehydration, ice water baths and assorted other types of physical abuse — as well as threats to sexually abuse the family members of detainees — in a bid to glean information about al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

Earnest sad repeatedly that it was up to the Department of Justice to determine whether there was a need for criminal prosecutions.

“That is the way that our criminal justice system works, which is that we have career federal prosecutors that are insulated from any sort of political interference, even the appearance of political interference,” he said. “And the president accepts that’s the way that the system works.”

Earnest said Obama has “confidence in the criminal justice system” as well as “the professionalism of the prosecutors who reviewed this matter.”

Tags CIA report Mark Udall

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