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U.S. Senate report to suggest harsh CIA interrogations were unnecessary: officials

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate committee report will conclude that the CIA's use of harsh interrogation after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks yielded no critical intelligence on terrorist plots that could not have been obtained through non-coercive methods, U.S. officials familiar with the document said.

Foreshadowing the impending release of a report expected to suggest that the "enhanced" techniques were unnecessary and also to accuse some CIA officers of misleading Congress about the effectiveness of the program, President Barack Obama said on Friday that the CIA "tortured some folks." He had banned the practices soon after taking office in 2009.

Officials said the Senate Intelligence Committee was unlikely to release the report to the public without some additional review.

“A preliminary review of the report indicates there have been significant redactions. We need additional time to understand the basis for these redactions and determine their justification. Therefore the report will be held until further notice and released when that process is completed," Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee's chair, said.

The voluminous report does not state that the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" - which included measures such as "waterboarding," or simulated drowning, on captured al Qaeda militants - produced no information of value whatsoever, the officials said.

But it asserts that such tactics yielded no information that would have been "otherwise unavailable" to spy agencies through normal interrogations aimed at foiling further plots in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, the officials said.

Committee investigators also concluded that the agency misled other executive branch agencies and Congress by claiming that only by using harsh methods did the agency achieve other counter-terrorism breakthroughs that otherwise would not have been possible. The report will criticize some CIA officials by name, the officials said.

The committee reached its conclusions based on detailed examinations of the cases of around 20 militants who were subjected to harsh interrogations while detained by the CIA, the officials said.

On Friday, Obama - in some of his most direct criticism to date of the Bush-era practices - told a White House news conference: "We did some things that were contrary to our values."

He had previously described waterboarding as torture, in line with human rights groups that had denounced the practice. A knowledgeable source said that the Senate committee's report largely uses the agency's terminology - "enhanced interrogation" - instead of labeling its practices as torture.

Obama insisted, however, that Americans in retrospect should not be "too sanctimonious" in their condemnation of national security officials who at the time were working under heavy pressure to prevent another attack.

Obama also defended CIA director John Brennan who has faced congressional calls for his resignation after a revelation that the agency spied on the Senate committee investigating its interrogation techniques. "I have full confidence in John Brennan," he said.

In April, the intelligence committee sent a draft of its 600-page report summary to the Obama administration.

Obama indicated that on Friday the White House delivered to the committee a declassified but redacted version of the summary, along with declassified versions of papers prepared by the CIA and by the committee's Republican minority in response to the summary.

Officials said it would largely be up to Feinstein to decide whether the committee would challenge redactions made by the administration.

Several officials said that the committee report alleges that the CIA did not thoroughly brief then-President George W. Bush about its use of harsh interrogations, although in a published memoir Bush said he was briefed on the program.

One former official said that in practice, the CIA briefed Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, on the program and she then briefed the president.

(Addtional reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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