- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration’s top intelligence official privately told employees last week that “high value information” was obtained in interrogations that included harsh techniques approved by former President George W. Bush.

“A deeper understanding of the al-Qaida network” resulted, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said in the memo, in which he added, “I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past.” The Associated Press obtained a copy.

Critics of the harsh methods _ waterboarding, face slapping, sleep deprivation and other techniques _ have called them torture. President Barack Obama said Tuesday they showed the United States “losing our moral bearings” and said they would not be used while he is in office. But he did not say whether he believed they worked.

Obama ordered the release of long-secret Bush-era documents on the subject last week, and Blair circulated his memo declaring that useful information was obtained at the same time.

In a public statement released the same day, Blair did not say that interrogations using the techniques had yielded useful information.

As word of the private memo surfaced Tuesday night, a new statement was issued in his name that appeared to be more explicit in one regard and contained something of a hedge on another point.

It said, “The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means.”

The emergence of Blair’s memo added another layer of complexity to an issue that has plagued the Obama administration in recent days.

The president drew criticism from Republicans last week for releasing the Justice Department memos that outlined the legal basis for waterboarding and other techniques. At the same time, some Democrats and liberal groups have expressed disappointment that he signaled his opposition to possible legal action against senior officials who had approved their use in the first place.

On Tuesday, the president told a reporter it would be up to Attorney General Eric Holder to make such a decision.

Blair, in his memo to employees in the intelligence community, wrote: “Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing. As the President has made clear, and as both CIA Director Panetta and I have stated, we will not use those techniques in the future.

“I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past, but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.”

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