CIA head: ‘Unknowable’ if harsh methods worked

CIA Director John Brennan says it is impossible to know whether or not harsh interrogation methods that many have called torture worked at obtaining information from Islamic extremists.

“The cause and effect relationship between the use of [enhanced interrogation techniques] and useful information subsequently provided by the detainees is, in my view, unknowable,” CIA Director John Brennan said in an unprecedented press conference on Thursday, amid a deepening crisis over the agency’s former tactics. 

{mosads}Suspected terrorists detained by the CIA and subjected to waterboarding, sleep deprivation, “stress positions” and other brutal interrogation techniques have “produced useful intelligence” that has thwarted terrorist attacks and helped keep the U.S. safe, Brennan said.

However, “we have not concluded that it was use of [enhanced interrogation techniques] within that program” that led to that information.

“There is no way to know whether not some information that was obtained from an individual who had been subjected at some point during his confinement could have been obtained through other means,” Brennan added. “It’s an unknowable fact.”

A report from the Senate Intelligence Committee this week strongly disagreed with Brennan’s assessment. Not only did the techniques at times amount to torture, the report said, but they were not effective at extracting information from the detainees, since people often gave up false information in order to get the “interrogations” to stop.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has been among the strongest critics of the interrogations program.  

“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good,” he said this week, after the report was released.

Though many, including President Obama, have called the techniques carried out during the George W. Bush administration to be torture, Brennan declined to use that word on Thursday.

“They were harsh, as I said in some instances I consider them abhorrent,” Brennan said.

“I would leave to others how they might want to label those activities, but to me it is something that is certainly regrettable.”

Tags CIA report Enhanced interrogation techniques John Brennan torture report

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