WASHINGTON (CNN) – In a previously undisclosed private memo, President Obama's intelligence director told colleagues that enhanced interrogation techniques used by the Bush administration yielded important information that helped America deal with the threat of terrorism.
"High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa'ida organization that was attacking this country," the Director of National Intelligence, retired Admiral Dennis Blair, told colleagues in the two-page memo April 16.
That sentence was not included in a shorter one-page statement Blair's office gave to the media last Thursday, the same day Obama released previously top secret Bush administration memos laying out Republican lawyers' rationale for why they believed the interrogations were legal. Obama officially banned the techniques during his first week in office, with his aides charging it amounted to illegal torture.
Republican officials who provided the Blair memo to CNN are alleging the failure to include that sentence suggests the Obama administration deliberately did not tell the public the whole story about the potential benefits of the interrogations last week, a charge hotly disputed by Blair spokeswoman Wendy Morigi.
Morigi told CNN the memo and the media statement were two entirely different documents and there was nothing nefarious about the sentence being left out. She also released a written statement by Blair suggesting that while the interrogations did yield some valuable information, it was outweighed by the negative aspects of the tactics.
"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," Blair said in the prepared statement. "The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."
Blair added that he supported the release of the Bush memos, as well as Obama's decision to officially ban the interrogations. "We do not need these techniques to keep American safe," he said.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney this week called Obama's release of the Bush memos "disturbing" and charged the administration is sitting on other CIA memos that would show that the interrogations helped stop terror attacks.
"They didn't put out the memos that show the success of the effort and there are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity," Cheney told Fox News on Monday. "They have not been declassified."
In his private memo, Blair stopped short of agreeing with the contention pushed by Cheney and other former Bush officials that the information gleaned from the enhanced interrogations yieled intelligence that actually prevented terror attacks.
Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs side-stepped whether other memos referred to by Cheney actually exist, and said the former Vice President's request for de-classifiation is a continuation of a long battle on substance.
"That policy disagreement is whether or not you can uphold the values in which this country was founded at the same time that you protect the citizens that live in that country," Gibbs said. "The President of the United States in this administration believes that you can."