April 20, 2009
"I need everybody to be clear. We will protect your identities and your security as you vigorously pursue your missions. I will be as vigorous in protecting you as you are vigorous in protecting the American people."
President Obama, remarking on his decision to release CIA memos detailing interrogation tactics during the Bush Administration, while visiting the agency's headquarters in Langley, Va.
"CIA interrogators used waterboarding, the near drowning technique that top Obama Administration officials have described as illegal torture, 266 times on two key prisoners from al-Qaeda, far more than had been previously reported."
A New York Times story on how frequently waterboarding was used against two top al-Qaeda members
The President makes his first trip to CIA headquarters to try to reassure jittery workers he has their backs, despite his decision to release CIA memos outlining harsh interrogation techniques against al-Qaeda. He promises he acted because of "exceptional circumstances" that surrounded the legal battle over the memos and although he's met with cheers from the crowd, his remarks don't seem to do much to boost sagging morale at the agency as the debate over the memos rages on.
As Washington digests the shocking revelations of the New York Times that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times, former Vice President Dick Cheney goes on the offensive over the torture memos. In an interview with Fox News, Cheney calls it "a little bit disturbing" that the Obama Administration released some of the CIA memos "but they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort." Many Republican allies and national-security professionals quickly take up Cheney's call, claiming that while the harsh interrogation methods may not have been ideal, they did save American lives. Several intelligence professionals and politicians quickly reject that argument, insisting that there is no evidence that waterboarding, sleep deprivation and the like ever helped prevent an attack.