The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s vice chairman defended the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques after 9/11, saying the program led directly to the discovery of al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican, said on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation” that he strongly disagreed with Democrats who are framing the CIA’s actions as fruitless.
The committee is expected to release this week a declassified version of its 6,000-page report on detention and interrogation in the aftermath of 9/11, which includes sections on the torture of detainees.
“There’s a theory on the part of Senate Democrats — who were the only ones who carried out this investigation — [that] these enhanced interrogation techniques were used against detainees both inside Guantanamo as well as outside Guantanamo, and that no significant information was obtained as a result of the use of those enhanced interrogation techniques,” said Mr. Chambliss.
“That is absolutely wrong,” he added. “You’re going to be able to see from the report itself — as well as from the minority views that we have put together, as well as a response from the Central Intelligence Agency — that information gleaned from these interrogations was in fact used to interrupt and disrupt terrorist plots, including some information that took down bin Laden.”
President Obama gave a preview of the findings Thursday at a press briefing, saying, “We tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.”
Mr. Chambliss said that his was the only vote in 2009 against proceeding with the Senate committee investigation.
“I thought it was a mistake then; I still think it’s a mistake,” said Mr. Chambliss.
His comments came as the Obama administration ramped up its defense of CIA director John Brennan, who came under fire last week after the inspector general reported that agency personnel broke into committee staffers’ computers as they were preparing the report.
White House Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer said Sunday on ABC-TV’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” that Mr. Brennan is “someone the president knows very well, and the president has confidence in him.”
“I think what we have to do is look at how Director Brennan responded to this,” said Mr. Pfeiffer. “When there were allegations of improper conduct, he was the one who referred it to the inspector general. And then the inspector general came back with his report this week.”
The president has said “this happened [and] we want to acknowledge it, but most important, we want to make sure it never happens again, which is why, in his first week in office, he signed an executive order banning these activities,” said Mr. Pfeiffer.
Mr. Brennan also received a vote of confidence from the Republican Chambliss, who voted against confirming the director but said Sunday that he had done “a really good job as CIA director.”
Mr. Brennan insisted in March that there was no hacking into Senate staff computers by the CIA, but once he found out he was wrong, “he came back and apologized,” said Mr. Chambliss.
“These are their [CIA] computers that were on their premises, but they were being dedicated to Senate staff,” said Mr. Chambliss. “This is very, very serious. If I thought John Brennan knew about this, then it would be certainly … we’d be calling for his resignation, but the OIG made a specific finding that he did not.”