Officials Stand Behind CIA Interrogations

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A new Senate report places fresh blame on the Bush administration for what it calls "abuse" of terrorist suspects, but some officials are stepping out in support of the techniques.

The Senate Armed Services Committee released the report late Tuesday saying military and intelligence officials were preparing to use aggressive interrogation techniques long before they had legal clearance from the Justice Department.

The report comes amid uncertainty over how President Barack Obama will deal with those who drafted the legal blueprints for the interrogations some say were torture.

Obama now says Bush administration officials could be prosecuted for those controversial CIA interrogation techniques.

But intelligence officials say the interrogations got valuable information from terrorists.

Did They Actually Work?

Obama's own national security director has revealed in what was supposed to be a private memo that "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."

He tried backtracking a bit Tuesday night, saying "there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means."

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says there are Bush-era memos Obama hasn't released that show crucial successes that came from the harsh interrogations.

Bush's former CIA director went on Fox News to say the use of those techniques against terrorists made the country safer.

Obama Changes Positions

Before Tuesday, Obama had been saying no one should be prosecuted for using or approving those interrogation methods.

But then came his stunning reversal.

"With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the perimeters of various laws, and -- and I don't want to prejudge that," Obama said.

That seems to contradict what his own Chief of Staff said just this Sunday.

"Those who devised the policy, he believes that they were, should not be prosecuted either," Rahm Emanuel said on ABC's This Week.

The comments also counter what press secretary Robert Gibbs said on Monday.

Question: Why are they not being held accountable?

Robert Gibbs: The President is focused on looking forward, that's why.

Pressure on Capitol Hill

Why the apparent sudden change? Some say it could be pressure from liberal colleagues.

On Capitol Hill Tuesday, Democrats cheered Obama's reverse.

"I was very pleased to hear that. I think that is the right thing," said Sen. Diane Feinstein, chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

"President Obama had made clear that he wanted to just look forward and not look back to the Bush administration," added ABC News political director David Chalian.  "That didn't sit well with the Hill and he was getting an ear full from liberal, grassroots supporters of his as well as Democratic allies on the Hill and that is why I think you're seeing the recalibration."

But other allies of Obama are trying to warn him off.

"Of all things that we shouldn't be doing, is taking out vengeance, trying to look backwards and focus negative energy looking back, rather than addressing the problems of the economy looking forward," said Lanny Davis, former special council to Bill Clinton.

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Paul Strand

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