April 22nd, 2009
04:58 AM ET
5 years ago

Memo: Obama's Intel Director said interrogations yielded "high value" Info

Bush-era interrogation techniques may have yielded important information.
Bush-era interrogation techniques may have yielded important information.

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."


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. Freed_From_W

    Yes, because as we all know, torture always yields the best and most truthful confessions. I mean, just look at the Spanish Inquisitio- oh.

    April 22, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  2. Julian

    OK...this is like some twilight zone episode. It does not matter what information you gather TORTURE is TORTURE. The greatest country in the world should as a rule not mimic the actions of those they fight valiantly against. How can this even be debated. To do so simply makes the US and it's agents diet Al Qaeda...or AL Qaeda light. Because I presume the argument is we'll only do it sometimes...but when will we do it? And where do we draw the line? It would be very effective to torture the children and loved ones of terrorists (JAck Bauer style)...that would crack them. But it's WRONG! That's the core issue...TORTURE IS WRONG!

    April 22, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  3. Jennie

    The money lines...(you know, the ones conservatives fail to mention)

    "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."

    April 22, 2009 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  4. JB

    so please explain to me what is torture? is torture any situation where they are less than comfortable? must they have heat, sleep and 3 squares. libs are ridiculous. anyone plotting to kill my children dont deserve comfort

    April 22, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
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