US & Canada

Barack Obama: 'Full confidence' in CIA director

President Barack Obama has defended CIA Director John Brennan and acknowledged the US tortured prisoners after 9/11.

His comments come as the Senate prepares to release a report on the CIA's interrogation programme.

"We tortured some folks," Mr Obama said. "We did some things that were contrary to our values."

He said Mr Brennan had his "full confidence" despite admitting the agency had searched Senate computers during the investigation.

Mr Obama has previously said the methods used by the CIA on al-Qaeda prisoners at secret "black sites" outside the US amounted to torture.

In April 2009, he said that he "believed that waterboarding was torture and, whatever legal rationales were used, it was a mistake".

On Friday the US president said officials at the time had used harsh methods because of the "enormous pressure" to prevent another attack on the US in the wake of 9/11.

A barbed wire fence surrounding a military area is pictured in the forest in Stare Kiejkuty village in northeastern Poland, 16 August 2013
A recent European court decision has held Poland responsible for hosting a "black site" for the US prisoners
John Brennan
Brennan apologised to Senate intelligence staff

"In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that we got wrong, we did a lot of things that we right, but we tortured some folks," Mr Obama said. "We did some things that were contrary to our values."

"It's important for us not to feel sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job those folks had."

There was some criticism of Mr Obama's choice of words.

Dan Froomkin, a journalist with The Intercept website said: "Obama referred to the people we tortured - and the people who tortured them - as 'folks'. Neither is really appropriate."

Mr Obama did not mention another expected key finding of the forthcoming report, which says the now-discontinued CIA interrogation practices produced little intelligence of value, according to leaked reports.

The Senate report is expected to be released in the near future, but on Thursday, Mr Brennan apologised to Senate intelligence staff for officers who improperly searched Senate computers during the committee's investigation.

Mr Obama said he had full confidence in Mr Brennan as he "was the person who called for the [inspector general's] report, and he's already stood up a task force to make sure that lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved".

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