PRESIDENT Barack Obama acknowledged on Friday that the US was guilty of torturing captives after the 11 September Twin Towers attack in 2001.
"We tortured some folks," he admitted, "We did some things that were contrary to our values."
In 2009 he described waterboarding, a favourite CIA technique, as torture and "a mistake" and he banned its use by American operatives, but last night's comments are the most emphatic admission.
CIA supporters have claimed the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" saved American lives and many do not regard the methods as torture.
President Obama, speaking ahead of the expected release of a Senate report that criticises the CIA's treatment of captives, steered clear of commenting on the efficacy of torture.
He added that he believed the mistreatment occurred because of pressure security officials felt to prevent another attack.
He said Americans should not be too "sanctimonious," about passing judgment through the lens of a seemingly safer present.
He also expressed confidence in his CIA director, John Brennan, in the wake of an internal CIA report documenting that the spy agency improperly accessed Senate computers.
There have been calls for his resignation by congressional lawmakers.
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