The CIA’s use of certain interrogation techniques revealed by a newly released Senate Intelligence Committee investigation constituted unauthorized acts of torture, former CIA General Counsel John Rizzo said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday morning.
Rizzo defended the use of waterboarding and sleep deprivation as "enhanced interrogation techniques" approved by the Justice Department in 2002. But the legal architect behind the black site program conceded that other practices, such as exposing prisoners to freezing temperatures and long periods of isolation in complete darkness, were not legally sanctioned.
"I would characterize them as torture. Those were not among the approved ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ the Justice Department approved in writing in August 2002," Rizzo said, referring to "Torture Memos" he legally cleared as the CIA’s chief legal officer during the CIA's Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program.
"So those were clearly abuses," he continued.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,700-page report, which criticized the CIA for misleading lawmakers and the public over controversial program operations, also concluded that the agency's enhanced interrogation techniques did not yield significant intelligence that was otherwise unattainable.
In response to the Senate report, a group of former senior CIA officials, including former CIA Directors Michael Hayden and George Tenet, launched a website Tuesday defending the agency’s interrogation tactics.
The website, CIASavedLives.com, accuses the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence of setting "the single worst example of Congressional oversight in our many years of government service." It describes the report as "marred by errors of facts and interpretation and is completely at odds with the reality that the leaders and officers of the Central Intelligence Agency lived through."
Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., former head of CIA’s counterterrorism division, also defended the program’s legal standing in a Washington Post op-ed published last week.
"We did what we were asked to do, we did what we were assured was legal, and we know our actions were effective," he wrote.