Obama defends decision on torture memos in CIA speech

April 21st, 2009 - 4:08 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, April 21 (DPA) US President Barack Obama visited the CIA Monday to defend his decision to release memos detailing harsh interrogation tactics that the agency used against suspects in the war on terrorism.
Obama sought to assure a gathering of CIA employees that he was committed to protecting classified documents and the secrecy the agency needs to succeed, but said his administration was running out of legal options to keep the Bush-era memos out of the public domain.

Obama received a warm reception from employees while urging them to not feel discouraged by recent events and emphasizing the critical role the CIA plays in defending the United States.

“The CIA is more important than ever,” Obama said.

Obama banned the harsh techniques days after taking office in January, including the use of water boarding. Obama said it was critical that the US maintained its values in the war on terrorism.

“Don’t be discouraged by what’s happened in the last few weeks,” Obama said. “Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes.”

Obama released the memos on Thursday, prompting a wave of criticism from Republicans who argued the information compromised national security. Obama ruled out prosecuting CIA officials who employed the techniques, arguing that they were following legal advice offered by the Justice Department.

The CIA has previously admitted that three individuals were subjected to water boarding, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the Sep 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and Al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah.

The method was reportedly used on Mohammed 183 times, while Zubaydah was subjected to water boarding on 73 occasions.

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