CIA Head Speaks Out on Torture Report But Question Remains: 'What's Going to Happen?'

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CIA Head Speaks Out on Torture Report But Question Remains: 'What's Going to Happen?'

'Those people who commit acts of torture as the CIA did must be prosecuted. It's a mandatory obligation of international law,' says CCR's Dixon.

 

CIA Director John Brennan speaking to press on Thursday. (Screengrab via NBC News video)

"Deceit and obfuscation."

That's what CIA Director John Brennan offered Thursday, one observer says, at a press conference just days after the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on his agency's torture program in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Brennan, who said there's been "more than enough transparency" since the its release, criticized the committee's process for the report as "flawed," and said that "there were times when CIA officers exceeded the policy guidance," and that "we fell short when it came to holding some officers accountable for their mistakes."

J. Wells Dixon, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights told MSNBC's Joy Reid: "I think [Brennan's] presentation was just another example of the deceit and obfuscation we've seen from current and former government officials who have really tried to undermine this report at all turns."  Dixon added that he doesn't think Brennan "believes the lies that he's telling."

Brennan was asked whether the torture—or Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs) as Brennan and most members of the media there called it—was effective in providing useful counter-terrorism information. Dixon said that focus misses the mark.

"The question whether these torture techniques led to useful information or not is the wrong question to ask," Dixon said. "The question to ask is, 'What's going to happen?'"

"There's an absolute worldwide ban on torture. There is no exception for exigent circumstances. There's no justification at all. In fact, those people who commit acts of torture as the CIA did must be prosecuted. It's a mandatory obligation of international law," he said.

As for other countries exercising universal jurisdiction to arrest those involved, Dixon said that the longer it takes for the U.S. to prosecute those who executed or authorized torture, the likelier that scenario becomes. "Torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction," he stressed.

Asked whether the torture program could return in the future if "faced with an imminent threat," Brennan did not rule that possibility out. He said: "As far as what happens if, in the future, there is some type of challenge that we face here, the Army Field Manual is the established basis to use for interrogations. We, CIA, are not in the detention program. We are not contemplating at all getting back into the detention program using any of those EITs. So I defer to the policymakers in future times when there is going to be the need to be able to ensure that this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis."

But accountability for the torture program is what would stop its resurrection, said ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero.

"If we don't hold officials accountable for ordering that conduct, our government will adopt these methods again in the future," Romero stated. "The fact that President Obama's CIA director believes that these methods remain a policy option for the next administration shows why we need a special prosecutor. We have to ensure that this never happens again."

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