WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The former deputy director of the CIA is ripping the torture report released by Democrats on Tuesday, calling it “deeply flawed.”
“Many of its main conclusions are simply not correct,” Mike Morell, who is a CBS News contributor, told “CBS Evening News.” “And much of the context of the times and much of the discussion that took place inside the executive branch and with the Congress about this program is not in this report.”
The report concludes that the CIA deceived government officials and the public with its steadfast insistence that the interrogation tactics, employed during the period that followed the deadly 9/11 terrorist attack on the U.S., had saved lives. The report says the CIA’s own records fail to back up the agency’s claims.
Morell stated that assertion is simply not accurate.
“I am absolutely certain that these techniques saved American lives because they stopped plots and they led to the capture of additional al Qaeda operatives,” Morell said on CBSN.
Morell is concerned that the “rug is being pulled out from” CIA officials who conducted these interrogations under order.
“What we had here were CIA officers who were acting under the direction of the president of the United States and who were told by the Department of Justice at the time that this was legal, that this was not torture,” Morell explained to “CBS This Evening.” “Now the rug is being pulled out from under them. So now they’re sitting there thinking, ‘What is going to be pulled out from us in the future?’ And that is not a place where you want your intelligence agency to be.”
The former CIA deputy director said that there were key pieces of information missing from the report.
“One of the things that’s missing in the Democratic report is the fact that there were extensive discussions with the leadership of the two intelligence committees in Congress,” Morell said. “And when those discussions occurred very early on in the program, there was not opposition. In fact, there were some members of Congress who didn’t think we were going far enough.
“This is the worst piece of congressional oversight and the worst piece of analysis … that I’ve ever seen.”
Morell said he fears for CIA agents in the field, telling “CBS This Morning” that the Taliban said Wednesday morning that they will increase their attacks inside Afghanistan due to the report.
Morell added that his agents did not torture anybody.
“One of the reasons I react so strongly, as does George Tenet, to people calling it torture, was that the Department of Justice told us at time, this is legal, this is not torture,” Morrell told “CBS This Morning.” “So when people call it torture, I react strongly because it says my officers tortured people — they did not torture anybody.”
Presenting her hotly contested report into CIA torture on Tuesday, outgoing Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein laid out her case in the same methodical manner she said guided five years of investigation. Keeping her emotions in check, she avoided invoking her personal dispute with the CIA’s director over the agency’s monitoring of her investigators.
Feinstein said the conclusions of her report “give me no pleasure.”
For the California Democrat, it was her highest profile speech on the Senate floor since revealing nine months ago a dramatic deterioration in relations between her panel’s investigators and the nation’s top spy agency. The CIA at the time was asking the Justice Department to launch a criminal probe of Feinstein’s staffers, a move she deemed tantamount to a constitutional breach of Congress’ right to legislative oversight. The CIA’s chief would later apologize, but on Tuesday Feinstein focused on the facts.
Proceeding point by point, she spent almost an hour citing examples of what she described as the CIA torturing al Qaeda prisoners after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and deceiving the nation and the world on the counterterrorism successes its “enhanced interrogation techniques” made possible.
About dozen fellow Democratic senators watched on. Only one Republican, a dissenter, Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana, was present, until Sen. John McCain entered the Senate to support Feinstein.
“The truth is sometimes a hard pill to swallow,” said McCain, who himself was tortured as a prisoner during the Vietnam War. “But the American people are entitled to it nonetheless.”
Feinstein’s overall summation was stark: Harsh interrogations didn’t work and the tactics were “far more brutal than people were led to believe.” Releasing just the summary and conclusions of the still secret, 6,700-page report, she said, is a step toward restoring U.S. values.
“America is big enough to admit when it’s wrong and confident enough to learn from its mistakes,” said Feinstein, who next month will cede control of the committee she has led for the last six years as Republicans assume the Senate majority.
And at 81, and with her political future uncertain, the report could serve as the magnus opus of a five-decade political career that saw Feinstein rise from mayor of San Francisco to one of the dominant Democrats in Congress. She is up for a sixth term as senator in 2018.
The study worked its way through more than 6 million pages of documents. It will incorporate a lengthy Republican rebuttal saying Democrats cherry-picked supporting evidence to reach a pre-determined conclusion of wrongdoing under the administration of President George W. Bush.
President Barack Obama outlawed the enhanced interrogations upon taking office.
“I think it was important for us to release this so that we can account for it, so that people understand precisely why I banned these practices as one of the first acts I took when I came into office, and hopefully make sure that we don’t make those mistakes again,” Obama told Telemundo on Tuesday. “I’ve been very explicit about how our intelligence gathering needs to conduct itself and explicitly prohibited these kinds of techniques. 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, commander in chief.”
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