Senate report on CIA torture ‘full of crap’, says Dick Cheney
‘Unknowable’ if methods produced vital intelligence, says CIA director John Brennan
Former US president George W Bush and his vice president Dick Cheney, who has dismissed a Senate intelligence committee report on the ‘brutal’ CIA torture of al-Qaeda detainees during their administration as ‘full of crap’. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Dick Cheney, George W Bush’s vice president, has dismissed the US Senate report on the “brutal” CIA torture of al-Qaeda detainees during his administration as being “full of crap,” disputing its claim that the interrogations programme did not lead to vital life-saving intelligence.
Responding to the 525-page report released by the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday, Mr Cheney told Fox News that the study was a “terrible piece of work”. He maintained that the techniques did lead to information that helped save lives.
The Senate panel concluded after a five-year study of CIA records that the agency lied about the effectiveness of the tactics used from 2002 to 2007 and that they were far more brutal than previously revealed. They included slamming detainees into walls, waterboarding until “near drownings” and forced rectal feeding and hydration.
“What happened here was that we asked the agency to go take steps and put in place programmes that were designed to catch the bastards who killed 3,000 of us on 9/11 and make sure that it never happened again, and that’s exactly what they did,” said Mr Cheney.
Asked about whether the tactics failed to produce key intelligence, he said: “That report’s full of crap.” He pointed out that the Senate committee never interviewed key people involved in the programme.
Separately, CIA director John Brennan defended the agency over the Bush-era practices, but acknowledged that it “came up short at times” and that it is “unknowable” whether the techniques produced vital intelligence.
Contradicting the Senate report’s claim, he said that detainees subjected to the interrogation tactics “provided information that was useful and was used” in the operation to kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
In a rare news conference by the spying agency’s chief, Mr Brennan conceded that CIA officers used techniques that “had not been authorised, were abhorrent and rightly should be repudiated by all”.
Fell short “We fell short when it came to holding some officers accountable for their mistakes,” he said at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Mr Brennan said that it was “regrettable” that some CIA officers exceeded policy directions with “harsh” techniques used but conceded that the agency was “not perfect”.
White House press secretary John Earnest earlier said President Barack Obama had “full confidence” in the CIA director following the Senate report.
Mr Cheney, referring to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the self-confessed mastermind behind the September 2001 attacks on the US who was waterboarded at least 183 times, said: “What are supposed to do – kiss him on both cheeks and say, ‘Please, please tell us what you know?’ Of course not. We did exactly what needed to be done.”
Mr Cheney appeared to dispute the view that waterboarding amounted to torture, despite UN officials asserting that it did. Torture, he said, “was something that we very carefully avoided”.
The Senate report said the first CIA briefing that Mr Bush received on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” was on April 8th, 2006 – four years into the programme and two and a half years after Mr Cheney was briefed by the agency on the techniques.
CIA records state that Mr Bush “expressed discomfort with the ‘image of a detainee, chained to the ceiling, clothed in a diaper and forced to go to the bathroom on himself”, the report said.
Mr Cheney denied that the president was kept in the dark about the full extent of the CIA’s programme, referring to Mr Bush’s own comments in his 2010 book Decision Points.
“Not true. Didn’t happen,” he said. “Read his book – he talks extensively in his memoirs. He was in fact an integral part of the programme. He had to approve it before we went forward with it.”