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CIA Chief Responds to Torture Report; Interview with Alberto Mora, Critic of U.S. Detainee Policy; U.N. Pushes For Criminal Charges

Aired December 11, 2014 - 14:30   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: So, we have just been listening to a very long and rare news conference by the CIA Director John Brennan at the

agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

We are going to return to normal programming right now with a review on analysis of everything that has just transpired.

Tonight, in a rare news conference the CIA Director responds to the damning report detailing enhanced interrogation techniques used by the agency after



JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: There were no easy answers. And whatever your views are on EITs, our nation and in particular this agency did a lot of

things right during this difficult time to keep this country strong and secure.


AMANPOUR: Standing by live, the former General Council of the United States Navy Alberto Mora. He tried to get the interrogation shut down back

in 2004, also ahead, an exclusive interview with the U.N. human rights envoy who is calling for those responsible for this program to be


Good evening, everyone. And welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. The CIA under fire, the agency's director John Brennan has just

given an extremely rare press conference defending the organization, but also admitting mistakes in the wake of this week's devastating Senate

report on CIA torture during the Bush administration.


BRENNAN: As I have already noted, the CIA was unprepared to conduct a detention and interrogation program. And our officers inadequately

developed and monitored its initial activities. The agency failed to establish quickly the operational guidelines needed to govern the entire


In a limited number of cases, agency officers used interrogation techniques that had not been authorized were abhorrent and rightly should be

repudiated by all. And we fell short when it came to holding some officers accountable for their mistakes.


AMANPOUR: Now, all of this after a five year investigation, using millions of internal CIA documents and memos, which concluded that the CIA

deliberately deceived Congress. John Brennan denied that. Denied deceiving the White House and the American public that the CIA used

interrogation methods that were much more brutal than the agency ever let on. And crucially, the report found that not a single case of torture led

to information about an imminent threat to America, the so called ticking time bomb justification.

My next guest led efforts within the U.S. Defense Department to try to end coercive interrogation (INAUDIBLE) at Guantanamo Bay. In an extremely rare

interview, Alberto Mora joins me now live from our Washington bureau.

Alberto Mora, welcome to the program. Good to see you today on all days. Do you considering - Do you considering the deep resistance that you led

feel justified today?

ALBERTO MORA, CRITIC OF U.S. DETAINEE POLICY: Yes, I think and first of all, thank you, Christiane, for having me on. I'm glad to be here. I

think this is a happy period for the United States paradoxically. Because it demonstrates a self-writing nature of American democracy to examine our

past or recent past on mistakes, and take corrective action. So, this is what we are seeing, notwithstanding the awful wreckage that we've seen

evidence in the Senate torture report.

AMANPOUR: The director John Brennan went to great length, again, to raise the specter over the terrible day, the terrible hours after 9/11 saying as

almost explaining the fear, and the panic and the hood mentality that led to these directions, praising the CIA for most obvious work, but calling

some of these interrogation methods abhorrent. You were there, you were there and you tried to raise the stink. Tell me how and when you

discovered this and what you tried to do about it?

MORA: Well, the director is right, that was exactly the atmosphere at the time. We were angry, we were afraid, we were just discombobulated. What I

learned about the -- the cruel interrogation techniques that were being applied in Guantanamo, I instantly recognized that the authorizations for

those enhanced interrogations as they are called euphemistically, could lead to torture. And now as you know from the Senate report, did lead to

torture. I protested against the adoption of those authorizations and the application of those techniques and was supported in that by every

military, a lawyer I came into contact with, and all the senior leadership in the military services who were involved in this issue.

AMANPOUR: Except, Alberto, the military brass rejected your arguments and the torture memos were, in fact, authorized.

MORA: The military brass didn't make those judgments. This was Secretary Rumsfeld and his team within the Pentagon that promulgated those memoranda

within the department. But members of the joint staff with which I spoke, and every military officer, in fact, that I came into contact with over

four years on this issue, all felt that these interrogation techniques were contrary to American values and principles, contrary to American law and

harmful to us from a national security standpoint.

AMANPOUR: Can I play for you a piece of John Brennan's testimony just now in his press conference, because there is still a slight disconnect between

what he is saying, did this torture or as he says, enhanced interrogation techniques lead to useful information. I want to play this and have you

explain for us.


BRENNAN: Our reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation program produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart attack

plans, capture terrorist and save lives. But let me be clear: we have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that interrogation that

allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful

information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable.


AMANPOUR: Your comment on that. What is he saying?

MORA: Christiane, I'm not sure that I know what he's saying. It seems slightly incoherent. I think the net result is that the information

produced by the torture was not effective in producing actionable intelligence. From the other hand, he also seems to support it as having

had some value. I'm not clear what he's saying with that statement.

AMANPOUR: And certainly, we've had other members of the U.S. Defense, certainly, the head of the prosecutions at Guantanamo Bay who told me this

week that they weren't useful, they didn't produce a single shred of useful information and as John Brennan was speaking, Senator Feinstein who is

responsible for this report, has been tweeting saying "CIA says "unknowable if we could have gotten the intel other way, study shows it is knowable.

CIA had info before torture.

Alberto Mora, you are a lawyer, you have -- you are steeped in the legal process. What happens to these people who are named in this report? The

DOJ says it's not pursuing any legal or criminal cases. President Obama wants to look forward, not back. What happens?

MORA: Well, Christiane, you know that question leads me to reflect again on what a different place we'd be in today if the Department of Justice

hadn't performed so abominably and abdicated its professional responsibilities to the country, to the president, to the agencies and have

provided quality (ph) legal advice on these kinds of issues.

There wouldn't be the confusion that we -- that is evident in Director Brennan's comments, nor we would be in -- we would not have entered into

the torture programs that the nation entered into. What's important to consider now going forward is that the issue is not so much an issues about

what happens to this CIA or to these individuals, but the larger issues is what is in the national interest, and the national interest it might have -

- this program and this recent history, is to reflect again on our principles, our values, our laws, our legal system, our constitutional

order, our foreign policy and national security strategies. And all of that suggests that what we should do as the first (INAUDIBLE) of business,

is restore our belief and our adherence to our traditional values, our adherence to the standard law on this issue, not engage and currently, not

engage in torture. Seek to hold those accountable for exceeding the legal guidelines provided, hold them to task, and then restore American

leadership at home and abroad on this very important legal and human rights issue.

AMANPOUR: Alberto Mora, I guess I want to ask you the brutal question, the CIA now has been held up twice, at least twice since 9/11 for failing on

the job: the weapons of mass destruction and the bad intelligence that led to a catastrophic war in Iraq, and now this. Which had grievously damaged

this country. Is there any reason to believe that we can now move forward, as John Brennan said that we are trying to put a full stop on this,

acknowledge our mistakes, acknowledge our strengths and move forward? Could this happen again?

MORA: Well, it could happen again. And in fact, although there were some laudable aspects to Secretary -- Director Brennan's comments, there were

also some troubling aspects to his comments. The most troubling is that he fails to recognize that in defending our country, we defend both our

people, of course, but also our values, and this is -- the second aspect of something that seemed to be absent from the director's calculations, or

from the CIA's calculations in engaging in this program.

The second aspect that is troublesome is the director's refusal to use the word "torture" at all in describing what occurred. Any individual who is

familiar with or would have a comic book familiarity with being shackled to a dungeon for a week would understand that that tactic out of many, is

classically torture. And unless the director's able to understand what the law and our values categorize this behavior as, then he's going to have to

be told or we are going to find a new director in order to lead this agency, because we need to be very clear about the law and our principals

require in how we classify these activities going forward.

AMANPOUR: And you know, there has been a lot of confusion and controversy over whether President Bush know -- knew and when did he know that these

torture harsh treatments were being used. Did he know? You were there at the very beginning, could he not have known?

MORA: Well, he might not have known, and it's unclear, because the president, of course, has endorsed all these matters and has indicated

repeatedly, both doing his time as president and then after his presidency that he supported entirely these programs. However, the information

contained in the Senate torture report indicates that he may not have been informed as to the details of this program. And it could be that he simply

ordered his subordinates to act aggressively, but by the same token, he also ordered them to act in compliance with the law. So, I'm not clear at

this point what the president, President Bush knew or didn't know concerning the details of the program.

AMANPOUR: Alberto Mora, one of the first people who stood up and challenged this process back in 2002. We appreciate you being with us here

today, thank you.

MORA: Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: And coming up, earlier this week as the Senate report was released, the former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo called this war crimes.

So, should prosecutions follow the Senate committee's report? Will they? I asked the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism.

Ben Emmerson joins me live in the studio next.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Now, the United States has revealed so much about the CIA's program of torture during the Bush

administration. Many are asking if there will be criminal charges for any of the people who conducted or authorized the torture.

One person who thinks there absolutely should is the top U.N. official on human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson.

Thank you for joining me.


AMANPOUR: So, you heard John Brennan. What did he say that struck you?

EMMERSON: Well, first of all I think it was quite a nuanced response. The two key issues on which he parted company with the Senate committee report

are really not issues that concern the question of criminal liability. And obviously, he's in a rather difficult position, and the reluctance to use

the "torture" word and avoiding that direct - that direct acknowledgment is perhaps one of the difficulties of the position (INAUDIBLE)

AMANPOUR: Do you believe that he refused to answer a direct question on that because of potential legal follow-up or not?

EMMERSON: No, I mean the president has made it absolutely clear that waterboarding is torture, as, of course, it is, and as are the other

techniques that were used by the CIA as part of this program. So, I suspect that the director's reluctance has much more to do with maintaining

esprit de corps among the CIA, who perhaps some of them don't want to see their director stand up and acknowledge that CIA officials were in fact

engaged in a crime of torture.

AMANPOUR: Right. So you go to a balancing activity. You've got to keep the morale of an agency up, you've got to keep doing your job, but you've

got to account for some really terrible, as it's been described to me, crimes. Let me play you what the chief former prosecutor at the Guantanamo

Bay Commission's told me.


COLONEL MORRIS DAVIS, FORMER PROSECUTOR AT GUANTANAMO BAY: I'm not aware of a single plot that was averted, a life that was saved because of the

torture program. I think clearly there was a tremendous amount of harm and damage that was done that's going to take years and years and years effort

to try to mitigate, but they never identified a specific benefit that makes this program worthwhile, and I think the reason for that is because there

is none.


AMANPOUR: How do you in your job as a legal and potential prosecutor react to that? The actual efficacy of this program?

EMMERSON: We see from the point of view of the international law obligations that exist here, whether the program produced actionable

intelligence or not is irrelevant. The obligation to prosecute crimes of torture is an obligation resting on the United States because it's a party

to the torture convention. And whether or not actionable intelligence resulted, makes no difference to the legal liability of those who committed

crimes of torture.

AMANPOUR: Well, Colonel Davis told me that these would be considered as war crimes.

EMMERSON: Absolutely. They are considered as war crimes, they are crimes of international jurisdiction. Any country in the world can prosecute CIA

agents involved in this activity, and Italy already has prosecuted, convicted 22 CIA agents, including the Milan station chief and sentenced

them to significant periods in prison in absentia.

AMANPOUR: On this issue?

EMMERSON: Precisely on this issue. On the abduction and torture of a dual Egyptian Italian national who was abducted by the CIA in 2003, and then

rended to Cairo, where he was tortured.

AMANPOUR: Now, you have stated and you have been - made no bones about it. You say this was a vast criminal enterprise.

EMMERSON: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: Authorized and directed at the top levels of the Bush administration. That's damning.

EMMERSON: It's not a matter of opinion. It's a matter of legal interpretation. Torture is a crime, the acts that were committed are

undoubtedly torture and cross that - the line into that territory by a very considerable distance. There was an agreement among senior officials to

implement that program, and there was a spurious legal cover given by the Office of Legal Counsel. All of those involved are guilty of an agreement

between them to commit what amounts to a crime, or a series of crimes. And those crimes must as a matter of international law be prosecuted.

AMANPOUR: So, tell me how that happens. You mentioned Italy, one country on its own doing it in absentia. How do you foresee, or do you foresee

some kind of formal framework to arrest and try these people who were ...

EMMERSON: There are three ways. First and foremost, the responsibility rests on Eric Holder, the attorney general.

AMANPOUR: They've already said they're not going to do it. They're not going to pursue it.

EMMERSON: Well, yes. In 2012, the DOJ announced a policy that there would be no prosecution of officials who had acted in good faith in conformity

with the advice of the OLC, the Office of Legal Counsel. They were only ever going to be criminal investigations with respect to those few cases

which, as Director Brennan recently said, involved individuals, CIA agents going beyond the authorization.

Now, that is an untenable position. As far as the U.S. obligations under the torture convention are concerned, there must be prosecutions, whether

or not this was authorized, and indeed, those involved in the authorization itself are criminally responsible. So that's one way.

The second is that there could be prosecutions in individual states, and as I said, Italy is one example where they have already been. And the third

possibility is that the office of the prosecution of the International Criminal Court is currently investigating the abuse by U.S. forces and the

CIA of detainees in the notorious Salt Pit black site in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: And since the U.S. is not even a signatory to the ICC?

EMMERSON: It makes no difference for those purposes, because Afghanistan is.

AMANPOUR: And do you see, I mean, are you going to do something about it? This falls under your purview.

What happens next under your bureau?

EMMERSON: Let me make it clear. I mean, it's not just me within the United Nations that is making this call. The high commissioner for human

rights has indicated that prosecutions must follow and that you can't grant impunity on the grounds of political expediency. And yesterday, the office

of the secretary-general has also expressed its hope that this report would lead to prosecutions. So it is the position of the United Nations that

there is an obligation, and there's a clear international legal obligation, uncontroversially resting on the United States to bring prosecutions


So first and foremost, our representations are to the United States government and to the office of the attorney general, that they must reopen

that process of inquiry in order to consider not just those who acted on the ground, incompatibly with their orders, but those higher up who

conceived of this operation and who gave it spurious and entirely tendentious legal justification.

AMANPOUR: Grave, grave matters indeed. Ben Emmerson, thank you very much for being here.

And coming up next, it's a crime that goes beyond borders. Online child abuse. And Britain's prime minister is leading the charge to eradicate it

for good. After a break.


AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where our children are not safe, where despite our best efforts to lock the doors, we still struggle

to keep our kids safe, because the window to the Internet is always open. It is a problem worldwide, as the threat of online child abuse grows, and

as accountability and punishment lag way behind.

Here in the UK, a legal loophole is allowing offenders to walk free, because it's against the law to send explicit images to a minor online, but

asking a child to provide one of themselves is not. Now, the British prime minister has stepped in to close that loophole, himself the father of young

children, he made the announcement at the We Protect Children summit online here in London. Standing with him are more than 50 countries, which has

joined up, alongside leading tech companies and NGOs from across the world to sign an agreement that declares war on the tide of online child abuse

and porn. Proof yet again that the Internet is a battleground for so many issues, even in the fight for innocence.

And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always watch our show online at, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks

for watching. Goodbye from London.