President Obama has refrained from substantial comment on the Senate torture report, unlike many members of Congress, such as Arizona's John McCain or outgoing Colorado Democrat Mark Udall. But Obama's press secretary made news on his behalf Wednesday.
Though Josh Earnest artfully dodged questions on the recently released report—an investigation into CIA "enhanced interrogation tactics" used on terrorism suspects post-9/11—he essentially affirmed that Obama agrees with the Justice Department's decision not to charge anyone in the brutal interrogations.
Asked by ABC News' Jonathan Karl whether Obama accepted that finding, Earnest didn't exactly affirmatively answer. But he implied that the president agreed that no crimes were committed.
"The president has confidence both in the justice system," he said, "and in the way that it was deployed in this particular situation."
With the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report Tuesday, brutal interrogation tactics were made public in sickening detail for the first time. The 500-page account revealed that CIA interrogators repeatedly waterboarded detainees, forced rectal feedings, subjected prisoners to sleep deprivation—in one case, for more than a week at a time—and other "enhanced interrogation" tactics.
As for whether Obama personally agreed that CIA interrogators did not commit crimes in employing these methods, many of which were not approved by the agency, Earnest said that the president, a constitutional lawyer, wasn't someone who should answer.
"That is not a question for the president of the United States," he said. "It's not the president of the United States who conducts a criminal inquiry into the actions of somebody who works at the CIA."
The president does believe, Earnest said, that "the use of the techniques that are described in this report significantly undermines the moral authority of the United States of America."
But he affirmed that Obama "certainly believes firmly" in the criminal-justice system, the "competence" of those within it, and the decisions they make.
In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would not prosecute anyone involved in the interrogation of suspected terrorist detainees. Under investigation was the case of Gul Rahman, a suspected militant, who died after being shackled to a wall in a prison cell at a facility code-named Cobalt. The new Senate report painted a grim picture of Rahman's death, revealing that he was naked from the waist down and forced to lay on the cold concrete. A guard found him dead—likely of hypothermia, later investigations found—the next day.
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