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Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Detention and Interrogation Report - Via Conference Call

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

December 09, 2014

Via Conference Call

12:51 P.M. EST

MS. MEEHAN:  Thank you very much, everybody, for joining us today.  This will be a background call on the Intelligence Committee’s release of this report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation program.  This call will be on background.  We have five senior administration officials with us today.  You are welcome to quote them, but in your reporting you must refer to them as senior administration officials, and not refer to them by name, agency or title. 

So with that, I will turn it over to senior administration official number one to give a laydown, and once we go through a laydown we will -- senior administration official number three, excuse me -- we will open it up to questions. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great.  Thanks, everybody, for getting on the call.  I’ll give some broad points and then I’ll turn it over to my colleagues to walk through a bit of what we’re doing in terms of assuring the security of our personnel and facilities overseas.

As you all know, earlier this year, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence asked the White House to declassify the executive summary findings and conclusions of the committee report on the CIA’s former detention and interrogation program.  President Obama determined that the report should be declassified with the appropriate redactions necessary to protect national security. 

To be clear, he supports the committee’s release of the declassified report.  You’ve seen his statement expressing the importance of transparency.  And again, we’ve been through this process with the committee precisely because we felt it was important to allow for public representation of their work while taking necessary precautions for national security.

So the declassified executive summary findings and conclusions that are being released by the committee today -- or that have been released are the results of considerable effort by the director of national intelligence working with the CIA, the Department of Defense, Department of State, and other agencies to declassify the documents with the appropriate redactions.  And in the interest of transparency, to put into context this effort, 93 percent of the report is declassified -- 93 percent, again, of the executive summary and findings and conclusions of the committee were released with the redactions, focused on our most acute national security concerns.

As we’ve made clear time and again, the decisions following the 9/11 attacks relating to this former program are part of our history as Americans.  They’re not representative of the way we deal with the threat from terrorism that we still face today.  So the committee’s report contains a review of a program that included interrogation methods used on terrorism suspects in secret facilities at locations outside the United States. 

But in one of his first executive orders after taking office, President Obama prohibited the use of harsh interrogation techniques, and ended the detention and interrogation program described in the report.  As he said, he believes that those actions were not consistent with American values and that we are better able to secure our country using other methods.

So as Americans, we are committed to sending a clear message to the world that we support transparency.  And that’s how we resolve to never use these types of techniques again.  That is why the President supported the declassification of these documents.  I think we set an example as a democracy by showing that we have a process for working through these issues; that that process includes, again, taking an accounting of what took place, having a degree of transparency about what’s been done in the past, but again, resolving to move forward together as one country using our resolve to secure our country but also using different techniques in the -- than we’ve used in the past.  And that’s part of the strength of our Democratic institution.

We have made clear that torture is prohibited at all time and in all places, with respect to U.S. personnel.  And our ability to demonstrate our commitment to that principle is also how we can help support that principle around the world.  It’s part of how we more effectively promote human rights and democracy.

I’d add that we value our partnerships around the world.  We hope and have confidence that foreign governments and foreign publics will understand that this is a program that was ended years ago.  The United States greatly values our close cooperation with our allies on a range of shared initiatives, and that won’t change.  And again, we very much appreciate the close counterterrorism cooperation we’ve had from a number of governments around the world over the years.  We frankly could not protect the American people without the cooperation of foreign governments.  We also would not be able to protect publics and our closest allies if we did not have close counterterrorism cooperation.

So I think it’s very important as we review the content of this report that we also lift up the principle that collaboration between governments and countering terrorism is essential not just to the security of the American people but to the security of people around the world.

The other thing I’d just close by saying is that the President believes that the men and women serving in the U.S. intelligence community have done extraordinary and heroic and patriotic work in protecting our nation and our allies across the globe.  And at no time has that been clearer than in the days since 9/11, when an extraordinary burden was put on the intelligence community.  Suddenly, we were confronted with a catastrophic scale of terrorism that came to our shores on that day, and it was immediately the responsibility of people in the intelligence community to protect the United States, to disrupt and dismantle networks that span the globe, to carry out national security policies that were significantly prioritizing terrorism in a new way. 

And while we recognize that there are strong emotions raised by the release of this report, the one thing that we want to be absolutely clear is that the men and women who continue to protect our country have the respect of everybody in this government and of the American people.

And so again, I think our general view here is that the release of this report is an important milestone in bringing a degree of transparency to this program, of underscoring why we have prohibited these types of techniques, and underscoring our commitment to human rights around the world.  And we hold ourselves to a high standard in that respect.  At the same time, it’s important that we lift up how much we value the contributions and service of people in the United States government who are asked to do an extraordinarily difficult job every single day, often without any praise, any even knowledge of their service.  And so that’s something we’re very mindful of here.

But with that, let me turn it over to my colleagues who can talk to some of the other elements.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks very much.  Well, first, throughout this process of preparing for the committee’s release of this report, the protection of our personnel -- diplomatic, military and other U.S. citizens serving abroad -- has been of paramount concern.  Towards that end, the White House has led an interagency effort over the past -- over five months to mitigate and prepare for potential threats that might be generated by reactions to the release of the report that has come out today. 

The intelligence community, working with the State Department, conducted a threat assessment -- and I know my colleagues in the State Department will have more to say on this -- but a full threat assessment was conducted based on the content of the report and the ultimate redactions to it.  And we undertook an effort working through the intelligence community, working through our State Department colleagues, to identify those locations that might be most at risk and to address our protections and threat posture and security posture accordingly. 

Based on these assessments, all diplomatic missions abroad were directed to perform reviews of their security posture, and to discuss potential threats in connection with the release of the report. 

The Pentagon, in addition, in concert with individual combatant commanders issued force protection guidance.  And they are, at the discretion of military commanders, adjusting their alert postures to best support diplomatic missions in their individual areas of responsibility, and of course, to conduct appropriate force protection measures for our men and women serving abroad.

Domestically, federal law enforcement has engaged with their state and local counterparts in a number of venues and working through joint terrorism task forces and other venues to coordinate community outreach as well, and to take steps to be attentive to any reactions from homegrown violent extremists. 

I think finally, what I would just say is that there has been significant coordination across the government amongst the diplomatic, intelligence and military communities.  And we worked through a predetermined period of heightened alert that was agreed upon at the federal level, but we will constantly reassess that and make sure that we are adjusting our security posture based on the intelligence that we see as we watch in the coming days after the release of the report.  So, I’ll leave it there.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  One measure of a country’s democratic institutions, as the President, the Secretary and others have said today, is whether it can be transparent about its mistakes, learn from them and change.  That is a message that we constantly deliver to our foreign partners and that is exactly what the United States has done with respect to this report.  We have prepared our embassies and our foreign partners for the release of this report to ensure that we have mitigated risks to the security of our embassies and personnel serving abroad and to American citizens abroad, and to explain to our foreign partners why we decided to make this difficult decision. 

As we worked with the White House, the intelligence community, the Defense Department, the entire interagency and the committee on this issue over the last several years, we were constantly mindful of the impact the release of this report could have on the security of our embassies and personnel serving abroad.  There are obviously a range of reactions that we might see.  The protection of our people is our top priority, and in anticipation of today’s release, the State Department reviewed its global security posture in every single post around the world. 

As my colleague indicated, late last week, the Secretary of State asked all chiefs of mission to conduct what we called EACs, Emergency Action Committees, at each of their posts.  These are advisory bodies of subject matter experts, and our ambassadors convened to assist in preparing for and responding to threats, emergencies and other crises.  After they are convened, they report back with their findings, and are tasked with maintaining vigilance in these kinds of situations over a considerable period of time.

We will pay close attention to any possible security threats resulting from the release of this report, and take prudent steps to address any threats should they arise.  We are working very closely, as my colleague said, with our counterparts in the Defense Department to ensure we have all of the resources that we might need.  We will also advise American communities abroad about changes in the security environment and any recommended precautions.  This outreach to private American citizens is something we take very seriously.  At this time, we are not announcing any changes to our current posture, but just as the just-released FBI-DHS joint intelligence bulletin noted, the report’s release could be exploited by violent groups at home and overseas.  So we will be watching social media especially to see how terrorist groups might use this release for propaganda purposes or to threaten our people or Americans in general.

In addition to the security issues this report’s release might entail, we’ve also been focused on the possible impact on our diplomatic relationships overseas.  On the one hand, we have a responsibility to work to protect sensitive information that may be related to past programs and other countries, while at the same time ensuring people around the world know that we no longer use these interrogation techniques, and are committed to human rights.

We at the State Department have to address both challenges.  We value our partnerships and have confidence that foreign governments, foreign publics and our coalition partners battling ISIS in Iraq and Syria all understand that this program ended long ago, and it has no bearing on the joint fight we are engaged in today against ISIL. 

And it’s worth reminding foreign governments and publics, as we have been doing, that in one of the first executive orders he issues, President Obama directed that individuals detained in any armed conflict shall in all circumstances be treated humanely.  To work to address these issues proactively over the past several days, the Secretary and our ambassadors and other senior officials have been reaching out to our foreign partners.  We have explained the importance of the report as part of our political oversight process in underscoring that our security and prosperity are inextricably linked with one another.  We are your partners, we have said, and we are in this together.  And we have heard the same from other governments.

We’ve also said that we don’t have to choose between our security and our values.  This diplomatic outreach is ongoing.  However, I’m not going to comment on the details of these diplomatic discussions for reasons I think you can understand.

As Americans, we are committed to sending a clear message to the world that we support transparency, and that we should never, as the President said, resort to these kinds of techniques ever again.  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Just one more thing before we take questions is -- with respect to the CIA, they’ve actually posted on their website I think their response -- earlier response to the committee, so people have that as a document that reflects some of the agency’s positions.

Q    Hi, folks.  One of the pieces of information that the Senate investigators did not have access to is the legal reasoning for why the Justice Department decided not to prosecute anybody.  And I wonder, in the interest of transparency, whether you would support releasing at least the legal reasoning, properly redacted because it’s a product of grand jury secrecy or whatever -- but that’s going to be a big question coming out of this, is why was no one charged criminally.  And the answers that the Justice Department, they don’t really shed much light.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, look, as I think you would expect, as it relates to decisions about whether or not to pursue prosecution, we really have to defer to the Department of Justice as it relates to their process and decision-making there.  So they’re the best venue to answer those questions.  They have conducted a review, they had made determinations to not pursue prosecution, but again, I think they’re in the best position to speak to both that decision-making and also the underlying information.  It’s frankly not our place to insert ourselves in that process.

Q    Hi.  I just want to go back if I can to some of the criticism of this report, including that there are no recommendations.  And particularly, I want to ask about the President’s statement today that was released today that -- he said he’s going to continue to use his authority to make sure we don’t resort to those methods again.  And how do you assure that this stance that the President has taken so clearly continues into future administrations?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Look, I’d leave it to the committee to describe their thinking as it relates to recommendations. 

What I will say is, from the President’s perspective, number one, the prohibition in the executive order is clear.  That’s what guides U.S. policy and U.S. actions under this administration.  The fact that he did it at the beginning of his administration I think sent a clear message that this is what we were going to stand for as a government.

In terms of going -- how this endures going forward, frankly, I think that there is value in transparency in the sense that by being transparent and by providing this information to the public, I think it adds another strong piece of evidence as to why we should not do these things as a country.

So in other words, the President’s prohibition is what guides our actions as a government, but the release of this type of information and this type of transparency I think helps cement the notion that we should not do these things because in our democracy the American people can take a hard look at this information themselves.  And I think generally speaking, the American people reject the notion that we have to utilize these types of brutal tactics in service of our own security.

Congress obviously has its own decisions to make as it relates to legislative action.  But in terms of the President’s position, it’s clearly expressed in the executive order.  We’d of course leave it to Congress to make their own determinations about how they want to interact with this debate going forward.  But I do, again, think that the release of the information itself helps strengthen in some respect the consensus for there being a prohibition on this type of activity, because people can take a look themselves at just how contrary it is to our values.

Q    Hi, guys.  Thanks for doing the call.  Two quick questions.  One is, in August, the President said flatly, “we tortured some folks,” but this statement today doesn’t say that.  It says, I unequivocally banned torture when I took office, but when he talks about what actually happened, he doesn’t call it that.  He says the -- techniques, and so forth and so on.  Does he believe this was torture?  When he spoke off the cuff in August -- is he retreating from what he said?  And the second quick question is about the Poland call today.  Was that meant to reassure Poland in some ways because of the release of this report, and them being a -- having been a site of the CIA prison?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, Peter, on your first question, no I wouldn’t draw that conclusion.  The President has said that we committed torture.  He’s been clear on that point for many years.  That’s been his position.  And we’re not going to go case by case in a report like this and try to affix a label to each action, but I think as a general matter, that’s what he has said on this.

With respect to the Poland call, that was one topic of discussion.  So they did discuss the release of this report.  They also, however, discussed a number of other issues in our bilateral relationship including the situation in Ukraine, including our NATO alliance.  So it was one part of a broader agenda.

Q    Hi, thanks for doing the call guys.  I actually have  question about the CIA’s response today, which says in part -- in particularly the agency disagrees with the study’s unqualified assertions that the overall detention and interrogation program did not produce unique intelligence that lead terrorist plots to be disrupted, terrorists to be captured, or lives to be saved.  The CIA seems to be saying that torture worked.  I’d like your reaction to that.  And in addition to that, I wonder if there’s any concern about CIA director Brennan remaining in place after having supported many of these enhanced interrogation techniques that the administration says should never have existed?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’ll start, and my colleague may want to add.  Well, on your second question the President has complete confidence in CIA director Brennan and believes he performed extraordinary service over the length of his time in government. 

With respect to this question about information that was obtained, we are not going to engage in this debate.  I think that would miss the overriding point that the President has made clear, which is that some of these techniques were contrary to our values and were overall detrimental to our security given, among other things, the response overseas to the fact that the United States was engaged in these techniques.  And that is of course why the President prohibited these interrogation techniques as one of his first acts in office. 

I would also just add, you’re essentially being asked, are you a counterfactual in this debate, because you are being asked to arrive at a view that another interrogation method may have gotten the same information or more information or less information.  We cannot know what the outcome of that counterfactual is.  We cannot know what other interrogation methods may have yielded. 

So for us, the reason for prohibiting the techniques is that they were contrary to our values.  We do believe that there are interrogation methods that can gain valuable intelligence.  We use those every day, in terms of when there are needs to interrogate terrorism suspects.  But that’s all I would add to that, but my colleague may want add some more words.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Just to give you a sense -- I think you might look at Director Brennan’s cover memo to Feinstein and Chambliss that was also released today in response to the study.  What he says specifically in that is that he agrees with the President’s decision to terminate the program, and that under no circumstances will it be re-initiated while he’s Director.  And he personally remains firm in his belief that enhanced interrogation techniques are not an appropriate method to obtain intelligence, and that they’re used -- impairs our ability to continue to play a leadership role in the world. 

I think, as my colleague indicated, that there are sort of different pieces to this as you parse it out.  And on the first piece, the question of whether or not there was unique and valuable information that came out of the program, the answer that the CIA’s consistently indicated is that, yes, that’s our view, and there’s a fair amount of discussion about that in the response.  But the sort of other piece to the puzzle I think is that many people will say, but there were other ways to get that information and -- that might have been more effective even in some circumstances.  And that, just as my colleague said, and as the response indicated, is the unknowable piece to this.

Q    Thanks for doing the call.  Yesterday, Josh Earnest said that the vast majority of folks involved in the intelligence community were true patriots, and he said in the report, leaving aside the legal justifications here, that these actions shouldn’t have taken place, these EITs should never been put in place.  Is anyone -- this is directed at senior administration officials four and five -- is anybody currently in the employ of the intelligence community who was involved in those EITs still there now?  And for the full cohort, why are they still there if the President believes these actions never should have been taking place and undermined American national security?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  I think there’s two pieces to that.  The first is that I think -- there’s the question of whether or not EITs ever should have been authorized and whether or not a program should ever exist again that has such techniques in it.  At the time, they were authorized and they were reviewed as legal, and people acted within the program with that understanding, under the direction of the President. 

So I think that is -- the thing that this administration, including John Brennan, said that’s not an appropriate way to do things -- variety of ways in which that’s been said, but basically everybody’s on the same page for saying that this should never be done and never be done again.  And I think that doesn’t condemn everybody who had contact with the program as a consequence.  So I think that’s one piece. 

I think for the second piece, I mean, is there anybody who’s referenced in the report or otherwise, we just don’t engage in those kinds of case-by-case personnel questions.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Just to hit the second question again -- we released, early in the administration for instance, the Office of Legal Counsel memos that related to this program.  The fact of the matter is, insofar as individuals are carrying out U.S. government policy consistent with Office of Legal Counsel judgments, consistent with directions that they’ve been given, we're not going to aim to hold them accountable if they're operating within the guidelines they’ve been given.

More broadly, the Department of Justice has taken a broader look at this program and has made their own determination not to pursue prosecution.  That's something that they can speak to.  But again, the key point here is whether or not individuals were acting consistent with the guidance, including the legal analysis that had been done, related to the program.  That's why it was ended as a matter of policy by President Obama so that our policy would change, and we would resolve to be not utilizing these specific enhanced interrogation techniques, to be treating detainees humanely in accordance with a variety of international conventions.  So that’s what’s guided our approach to how we deal with personnel.

Q    Hi, thanks for doing the call.  So two questions, one of which is a follow-up I think to Zeke’s question.  First, can you say does the President agree with the conclusion in the report that the CIA repeatedly misled policymakers at the White House, Congress and the public about aspects of the program?

And the second, to follow on Zeke’s question, you said that the standard is if people were following the guidelines, it seems to me the meat of this report from the Senate is about incidents where people were not -- clearly not following the guidelines, exceeding the directive.  Senator Feinstein said directly that a lot of these techniques, the way they were applied went well beyond what the Justice Department had authorized.  Is it your position that no employment action is appropriate for people that did those sorts of things, that it’s either criminal prosecution or nothing, and that that amounts to the sufficient accountability for people that departed from directives that they were given?  Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So again, on the criminal side of this, I have to leave this to Justice to make determinations about activities that may have been inconsistent with the law.

In terms of the agencies, look, individual agencies have the responsibility and have processes for reviewing what their employees have done.  And the fact of the matter is this took place long before we were in office, so even by the time we took office, there had been inspector general reports, there had been processes within these agencies. 

So again, some of this -- all of this activity predates this administration.  And even some of the personnel and inspector general reports predate this administration being in office.  And I think as a matter of practice, particularly within our intelligence community, agencies do not publicly discuss what actions are taken related to certain activities that are classified.

With respect to the CIA’s engagements with Congress, again, all we can speak to is what we have done as an administration.  And it is our belief that the CIA has worked very diligently with Congress throughout the course of the last several years to provide what is really unprecedented access to documents and materials that provide the basis of this report. 

So we have encouraged the agency to work collaboratively with Congress.  Obviously, this process has been difficult at times.  We would all acknowledge that.  But, frankly, where there has been difficulties in the process, we’ve again encouraged the agency and Congress to work cooperatively together to work through those differences, and they have.  And the fact that you have an executive summary and findings and conclusions that are 93 percent of what we were provided with -- so a minimal amount of redactions I think speak to the collaborative nature of the process.

I don't know if my colleague may want to jump in here.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I just want to add that the issue of where people acted outside of the line -- an absolutely fair one.  And something that is in our response to the study is that we fell short -- the CIA did -- when it came to holding individuals accountable for poor performance and management failures.  And across the board, I think you’ll see that in the statement and comments.

There were serious mistakes that were made, and -- in the implementation of the program.  And where those occurred, those are things that there should be accountability for.  And that's something that we have a number of processes -- short of the criminal piece -- but there have been referrals to the IG and so on.  And I think that is something that systemically, we’ve seen some issues that we’ve been essentially in the process of correcting.

Q    In May of 2009, the President fought the release of photographs documenting abuse of prisoners.  And the reasoning at the time was basically that it would set off a deadly backlash against American troops and other American interests.  Can you talk about his -- why his thinking is different here?  Is there an evolution?  Is there specifics of the case that make those two different?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No, John, I remember that one well.  And we're always balancing this question of the transparency that is essential for our democratic institutions and actions that are aimed at protecting our individuals and facilities overseas. 

What I would say is remembering that particular instance, at that time, we did not believe that the release of that tranche of photographs would reveal anything new or different from what had already been released in the public record.  That was part of a larger body of materials, and there had been similar photographs released at different points.  So at that particular instance and time, the President believed the release of those photographs would raise the risks to U.S. personnel overseas.  We also had at that period of time some 150,000 Americans serving in harm’s way in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  We obviously have significantly less today.

However, I think that this report is qualitatively different in the sense that it does represent a much more comprehensive view of this program than anything that has been released publicly before.  So the transparency value of this report we think is qualitatively different than a set of photographs that did not add significantly new information to the public record.

And look, so this is not an exact science, but the President has to make calls on different issues related to declassification.  I think our judgment is to try to be as transparent as possible and manage the risk associated with transparency.  But again, at the end of the day, the committee was determined to release this report.  And the President believed that there was value in there being a declassified report.  And that's why we worked with them to facilitate the declassification that would enable them to release the report today.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I would just add to my colleague’s statement, all of that said, the President has been extremely focused on the protection of our personnel overseas as I laid out at the beginning.  And the redactions that were done were done mindful of the national security implications.  And we have taken a series of steps both in conducting the threat assessment and the mitigation measures that I indicated to address the potential reaction.

Q    Hi, guys.  Thanks for doing the call.  I have a couple for you.  The first is that the Senate report, or their summary, includes the suggestion that the CIA on a systematic, ongoing basis leaked classified information to reporters that was painting -- that painted the agency in a positive light.  I’m wondering whether you consider that a proper use of classified information?  Whether that’s also a policy pursued by the White House?  And then separately, I’m still trying to square the circle -- how can the President say “we tortured some folks,” and then you guys take the position that that was legal?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay, let me unpack that.  So on the second question, the President’s determination was that he has said over many years, dating back to the time that he was in the Senate, that he believes that the United States carried out activities that amounted to torture.  That’s his determination.  That is one of the reasons that led him in one of his first acts in office to prohibit the use of those techniques.

So I think he rendered his judgment publicly about whether or not the United States had engaged in torture.  He rendered his judgment on the broader program when he ended it upon taking office.  And one of the several reasons he cited for that action was the need for the United States to be in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and a variety of international conventions and laws as it relates to the humane treatment of detainees.

On the first question, we absolutely do not believe that classified information should be provided outside of, again, a process of declassification.  I mean, part of what you see here is the very rigorous nature of activity that needs to be undertaken in order to declassify information and release it to the public.

So we do believe that there’s value in declassification where we can provide additional transparency, but we believe that that should take place through normal channels and procedures.  And you’ve heard us say this in many instances from whistleblowers to the process of redaction that we see with this report, that our approach is that there are existing protocols for declassification that can provide information to journalists and the public.  It’s very important that information reach journalists and the public, but that we work through existing protocols. 

Of course, we live in a world where lots of information gets out there.  But that is always our preference.  But I’d really --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No, absolutely agree.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I guess, with respect to your first question, I think, about legal positions, no one is taking legal positions here.  That’s obviously the purview of the Department of Justice.  They conducted multiple reviews of the conduct related to this program, and a career prosecutor determined not to bring charges.

Q    Thank you very much.  Do you have concerns about what the CIA and other intelligence agencies might be doing that the White House does not know about, given the fact that this report alleges that there was a whole lot that wasn’t briefed even to the Bush White House, where the agency knew that it had support for this program?  And conversely, are you concerned about morale in the intelligence community?  And should the President or anybody on his behalf do anything to work that issue, given how battered they are in light of this report?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We worked very collaboratively with the intelligence community, and we’ve gone through a number of exhaustive reviews with different intelligence agencies that speak to how important we think their work is and that speak to the need for collaboration.

Just to take the example of our surveillance activities, we worked very closely with NSA and other agencies over many months leading up to the President’s speech earlier this year on our approach to those policies.  We worked very closely with the CIA as it relates to our counterterrorism policies around the world.  And we have a great deal of confidence in both the leadership and workforce of our different intelligence agencies.

So I think we have confidence that there is a good collaborative process in place for intelligence agencies to cooperate with one another and to cooperate with the interagency and the White House.  I’d give some credit here to Director Clapper I think who as the DNI has put a premium on coordination and management of the community which, again, helps assure that there is not abuse, there’s oversight within the U.S. government and there’s a coordination of what’s taking place.  Again, I can’t account for every single activity in the government, but I think our general view is that we feels it’s a collaborative relationship and a collaborative environment. 

I’ll leave my colleagues to speak to the workforce issues.  I do think -- look, we recognize that every time there’s a difficult and painful chapter that is revealed in such a manner as this report, that that can be challenging for the workforce.  As I said earlier, the fact of the matter is, I know, as all my colleagues do, individuals who are in the intelligence community who work tirelessly to protect the United States, some of them work at great danger to their lives.  They get no recognition for the work that they do.  Sometimes they can’t even tell their families what their work is.  Sometimes their families don’t even know exactly where they are.  And since 9/11, they’ve been going 100 miles per hour 24 hours a day trying to keep America safe.

And we are certainly sympathetic that those individuals not feel that their entire agency, that their entire professions is being painted with a broad brush here with the release of this report.  Because the fact of the matter is, if it weren’t for the CIA and the intelligence community, more Americans would have been killed by terrorists since 9/11.  They have saved lives.  They’re saving lives as we speak with what they’re doing against al Qaeda and against ISIL.  And it’s very important that we lift that up even as we are transparent about what went wrong in the past, both from, in our view, a matter of policy, but also, in certain cases, when individuals went beyond those policy guidelines.

But I think we have to make very clear that that is not the norm of behavior in the intelligence community, and that we ask these people to do very hard things in very difficult places.  And we have to be thankful for their service.  We have to not paint them with a broad brush.

And I think it’s entirely appropriate to step back and express gratitude for what they do, given the fact that we’re not going to be able to thank them like we thank our troops.  We’re not going to be able to see an intelligence agent in the airport and shake their hand in the same way Americans can deal with a servicemember or servicewoman. 

And I think that’s a message that the President has consistently delivered.  He delivered it back in 2009 when he went out to the CIA after the release of the OLC memos.  I think he’ll continue to do so, as will other members of the administration.  But my colleagues are going to add to that.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I would just add and -- point you to Secretary Kerry’s statement that was released this afternoon, which ended, “As that debate is joined, I want to underscore that while it’s uncomfortable and unpleasant to reexamine this period, it’s important that this period not define the intelligence community in anyone’s minds.  Every single day the State Department and our diplomats and their families are safer because of the men and women of the CIA and the intelligence community.” 

And then he goes on to speak to what was just said about risking their lives -- As we go forward in the days and weeks and months ahead, whether it is ISIL, whether it is al Qaeda, whether it is some other group, whether it is some lone wolf out there responding to this report, we will be very dependent on the intelligence community to help keep not only our diplomats safe, who also put their lives at risk every -- but keep Americans citizens traveling the world safe -- American business -- traveling the world safe every single day.  And we are very grateful -- help us do so.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I just -- as you can already tell -- and thank you very much for the question -- we do get a tremendous amount of support from the White House and the interagency on these issues.  And the morale of the workforce is something that we’re spending an awful lot of time on right now for all of the reasons that you can imagine.

John put out a note to the workforce.  He’s going to be talking to them.  We’ve talked to them before.  We’ve established folks who they can call if they want to have a conversation about things in our medical services pieces, and there’s all kinds of support that we think is important.  And it’s support for the idea that you may be part of a program and the policy may change, and you’re still going to be supported, but also support for understanding that when mistakes are made -- as they were in the implementation of this program -- that we also live up to that and that we change our practices, and that we do everything we can to make sure that they don’t happen again, and that that’s okay and that’s part of being a learning organization, and we can still be proud of our organization even when those kinds of mistakes are made.

And in terms of the issue of sharing, I’d just tell you that the director, myself and leadership and everybody that we work with -- essentially extraordinarily committed to sharing everything that we can and should with the White House.

MS. MEEHAN:  Thank you everyone for joining this call.  As a reminder, this call was on background with comments attributable to senior administration officials.  Thank you.  Have a good day.

END 1:40 P.M. EST

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