President Obama said Tuesday he hopes a Senate report detailing “troubling” CIA interrogation practices will help the U.S. prevent actions “contrary to our values” in the future.
“One of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better,” the president said in a statement issued shortly after the release of the report.
“Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong — in the past.”
The document, prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee, graphically details interrogation techniques employed by the CIA following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
It finds that the agency employed waterboarding, physical abuse, and threats of sexual abuse. The report also suggests the CIA misled the White House, both about what techniques were used and how effective they were at gleaning information.
Obama said the details reinforced his long-held view that the interrogation techniques were “not only inconsistent with our values as [a] nation,” but also failed to “serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests.”
Moreover, the president said, the techniques “did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners.”
Obama ended the CIA program in his early days in office and vowed Tuesday to “continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again.”
Secretary of State John Kerry echoed the president, saying that, although it was “uncomfortable and unpleasant to re-examine this period,” the report “marked a coda to a chapter in our history.”
“Release of this report affirms again that one of America's strengths is our democratic system’s ability to recognize and wrestle with our own history, acknowledge mistakes and correct course,” Kerry said.
Republican lawmakers, though, criticized the report's release and warned that it could undermine American interests.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called it “an ideologically motivated and distorted recounting of historical events” in a statement Tuesday.
They warned the report “will present serious consequences for U.S. national security.”
The White House said Monday it had taken “prudent” steps to brace for possible violence.
“There are some indications that the release of the report could lead to a greater risk that is posed to U.S. facilities and individuals all around the world," said spokesman Josh Earnest. "So the administration has taken the prudent steps to ensure that the proper security precautions are in place at U.S. facilities around the globe.”