A group of former top-ranking CIA officials disputed a U.S. Senate committee's finding that the agency's interrogation techniques produced no valuable intelligence, saying such work had saved thousands of lives.
Former CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden, along with three ex-deputy directors, wrote in an op-ed article published on Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal that the Senate Intelligence Committee report also was wrong in saying the agency had been deceptive about its work following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
"The committee has given us ... a one-sided study marred by errors of fact and interpretation - essentially a poorly done and partisan attack on the agency that has done the most to protect America after the 9/11 attacks," they said.
The report concluded the CIA failed to disrupt any subsequent plots despite torturing captives during the presidency of George W. Bush.
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But the former CIA officials said the United States never would have tracked down and killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011 without information acquired in the interrogation program. Their methods also led to the capture of ranking al Qaeda operatives, provided valuable information about the organization and saved thousands of lives by disrupting al Qaeda plots, including one for an attack on the U.S. West Coast that could have been similar to the Sept. 11 attacks.
The former CIA officials defended the interrogation program by saying agents were in an unprecedented daily "'ticking time bomb' scenario" that required quick action.
They said the committee report was "flat-out wrong" in saying the CIA misled the White House, Justice Department, Congress and the public about its methods. The CIA sought and received confirmation from the White House and Justice Department for its programs and also kept Congress informed, they said.
"In no way would we claim that we did everything perfectly, especially in the emergency and often-chaotic circumstances we confronted in the immediate aftermath of 9/11," the former officials wrote. "As in all wars, there were undoubtedly things in our program that should not have happened. When we learned of them, we reported such instances to the CIA inspector general or the Justice Department and sought to take corrective action."
The intelligence officials criticized the committee staff for not interviewing any of them and said the staff had already concluded the interrogation methods gave no useful intelligence before conducting their investigation.