President Barack Obama paid his first visit to the headquarters of the Central
Intelligence Agency on Monday. Visit was part of an effort to boost agency
morale only days after the release of once-secret memos that outlined the legal
justification for harsh interrogation techniques used on terror
The memos were graphic and troubling.
documents - issued under the Bush administration - revealed details of
interrogation techniques like simulated drowning that have been condemned around
President Obama banned the use of these techniques shortly
after assuming office in January. He told CIA employees that it is time for the
nation in general and the intelligence community in particular to move
"We have to acknowledge potentially we have made some mistakes,"
said President Obama. "That is how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to
acknowledge them and then move forward that is precisely why I am proud to be
President of the United States and that is why you should be proud to be members
of the CIA."
In his brief remarks, Mr. Obama sought to explain his
decision to release the memos and to lift the spirits of CIA
He said he acted because a court case was expected to force
the release of the documents anyway and because much of the secret information
had already been leaked to the news media.
The president acknowledged the
release of the memos has been difficult for the intelligence community. But he
told the CIA staff not to be discouraged.
"I have fought to protect the
integrity of classified information in the past and I will do so in the future,"
said Mr. Obama. "And there is nothing more important than protecting the
identities of CIA officers. So I need everybody to be clear - we will protect
your identities and your security as you vigorously pursue your
Several former CIA directors had fought against the release of
the interrogation memos. Among them was Retired Air Force General Michael
Hayden, who held the post from 2006 until early this year.
He told the
Fox News Sunday television program that he is concerned about the possible
effects of the released memos. He said CIA officers might worry about the legal
and political ramifications of every order they are given.
"I think the
really dangerous affect of this is you have agency officers stepping back from
the kinds of things that the nation expects them to do," said Michael
The chorus of criticism has also been loud from Congressional
Saxby Chambliss of Georgia is a member of the Senate
"There are some things that when you operate in
the 'cloak-and-dagger' world of the intelligence community, that need to remain
within the intelligence community," said Saxby Chambliss. "I think it is
unfortunate that those memos were put out there."
Chambliss also said he
believes the Obama administration is looking for every opportunity it can get to
embarrass former President George Bush. He said that this time, it went too far.