Former President Bill Clinton on Thursday applauded the release of a Senate report on the use of torture following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks during an interview in conjunction with the “Future of the Americas” summit in Miami.
When asked by Fusion’s Jorge Ramos if the release of the report — which revealed the tactics used by the Central Intelligence Agency were even more brutal than the agency had previously acknowledged — puts the U.S. at risk, Clinton replied, “No.”
“When you release a report like this … you show that some things happen that we don’t like,” he said. “But you also show that we believe, instead of you know putting these problems under the rug and hiding them, it’s better to come out and say, ‘OK, this is what happened, now let’s talk about how we can fix it, how we can make it better.’”
Clinton said the post-9/11 period “was a very frightening time in America but that doesn’t justify any mistakes that were made.”
“A lot of people did a lot of things that they thought were necessary to protect us that may have been inconsistent with or flatly contradictory to international norms,” he said.
President Obama issued an executive order banning the use of the so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques upon taking office in 2009. Clinton said the government should ensure that the tactics are never used again.
“What I hope will happen is that we will keep pushing on this, find out exactly what happened, give anybody who disagrees a chance to have their say, and then do what we should always do in cases like this–say what our policy is going to be on this and stick with it and have it consistent with international law,” he said. “I do not think we are in more danger because of this.”
Clinton praised the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), for making the report’s findings public.
“She has worked a lifetime to be for a strong national defense in America, but she doesn’t believe that any sort of torture makes us stronger,” he said.
Separately, Clinton said the U.S. is still suffering the consequences of the Iraq War.
“I think we’re still paying for it today,” Clinton said.
Ramos asked Clinton whether his successor, President George W. Bush, “betrayed American values” with the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation” program. Clinton declined to blame Bush for the use of torture, citing claims in a Senate report that Bush was unaware of many the program’s details.
Changing topics, Clinton said Bush’s decision to go to war with Iraq was a “whole different deal.”
“That’s been litigated and you either agree with it,” Clinton said.
The former president’s comments on Iraq are notable because his wife Hillary Clinton voted to authorize the Iraq War in 2002 when she was in the U.S. Senate. Clinton has said she regrets her vote, but it could remain a political liability should she decide to run for president in 2016.
The Iraq War was back in the spotlight on Thursday when Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the outgoing chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released new information he claimed was proof that Bush misled the public in making the case for war.
The Clinton Foundation’s “Future of the Americas” summit brought together business, non-profit, educational, and political leaders to improve cooperation on key issues facing the Western Hemisphere. The full interview will air on Fusion’s “AMERICA with Jorge Ramos” Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 10 p.m.