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U.S. Department of Justice performed ‘abominably’ over CIA torture program

December 11th, 2014
06:12 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

The CIA "enhanced interrogation" program, what amounted to torture, would not have been initiated if the Department of Justice had not performed “so abominably,” former U.S. Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday in an exclusive interview.

Mora was one of the first critics of the brutal interrogation tactics at Guantanamo Bay during the Bush administration, and led efforts within the U.S. Defense Department to try to halt the program, which was catalogued in an extensive Senate report on Tuesday.

“What a different place we’d be in today if the Department of Justice had not performed so abominably and abdicated its professional responsibilities to the country, to the President, to the agencies, and had provided quality legal advice on these kinds of issues.”

“There wouldn’t be the confusion that is evident in [CIA] director Brennan’s comments nor… We would not have entered into the torture programs that the nation entered into.”

Mora’s comments followed a rare press conference given by the CIA Director John Brennan, in which he stood by the organization but questioned some of its tactics.

Amanpour asked Mora for his thoughts on the Director’s speech and if it was possible to move on after such damaging revelations, which Brennan said was his “fervent hope."

“It could happen again. In fact, although there were some laudable aspects to 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.”

“The second aspect is the director’s refusal to use the word torture at all in describing at occurred. Any individual who is familiar with, or who’d have a comic book familiarity with being shackled to a dungeon for a week would understand that tactic, out of many, is classically torture.”

“And unless the director is able to understand what the law and our values categorize this behavior as, then he’s going to have to be told, or we’re going to have to find a new director in order to lead this Agency, because we need to be very clear about the law and what our principles requires and how we classify these activities going forward.”

Mora, who is now studying the legacy of the torture program on U.S. foreign policy as a senior fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, said it was in the country’s national interest “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 a first order of business our belief and our adherence to our traditional values, our adherence to the standard law on this issue, not engage in cruelty, not engage in torture, seek to hold those accountable for exceeding the legal guidelines provided, hold them to task.”

Despite this dark period in the history of the U.S., Mora thinks “this is a happy period paradoxically because it demonstrates a self-righting nature of American democracy to examine our past, our recent past, our mistakes and take corrective action.”

Click above to watch the full interview.

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Torture • U.S. Politics
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