Obama: Info Gained Doesn't Justify Torture

(CBS/ AP)
President Obama said tonight that the "torture memos" do not show that intelligence obtained using harsh interrogation techniques could not have been discovered through alternate methods.

In making that argument, the president was deflecting charges by former Vice President Dick Cheney that the memos that have been made public do not reflect the important information gained by using waterboarding and other controversial techniques.

"The public reports and the public justifications for these techniques, which is that we got information from these individuals that were subjected to these techniques, doesn't answer the core question," Mr. Obama said. "Which is, could we have gotten that same information without resorting to these techniques? And it doesn't answer the broader question, are we safer as a consequence of having used these techniques?"

Mr. Obama said that even though it might be harder, he still felt it was best for the long term security of the country to only employ intelligence gathering practices that are consistent with America's values.

"Part of what makes us, I think, still a beacon to the world is that we are willing to hold true to our ideals even when it's hard, not just when it's easy," Mr. Obama said.

On the issue of whether or not waterboarding constituted torture, the president was unequivocal, reiterating statements he made on the campaign trail that there was no distinction.

"What I've said -- and I will repeat -- is that waterboarding violates our ideals and our values," Mr. Obama said. "I do believe that it is torture. I don't think that's just my opinion; that's the opinion of many who've examined the topic. And that's why I put an end to these practices."

In making this decision, the president stated that he was cognizant that he will be judged by whether or not he successfully keeps the American people safe.

"There have been no circumstances during the course of this first 100 days in which I have seen information that would make me second guess the decision that I have made," Mr. Obama said.

The president plucked a historical example to bolster his position, noting that during the bombing of London, Winston Churchill refused to condone torture of German detainees.

"The reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking short-cuts, over time, that corrodes what's -- what's best in a people," Mr. Obama said. "It corrodes the character of a country."

Ultimately, by rejecting these interrogation methods, Mr. Obama said that the country would not only regain its status as a beacon to the world, it would also rob Al Queda of a key recruitment technique. The terrorist group, the president said, uses the United States use of such practices as a justification for killing civilians and vilifying America.

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  • Brent Lang

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