Comment: And we never said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
CIA Director Porter Goss on Thursday defended his spy agency's current interrogation practices but could not say all methods used as recently as last December conformed to U.S. law.
U.S. officials do not view torture as a method for gaining vital intelligence, Goss said. But he acknowledged some CIA operatives may have been uncertain about approved interrogation techniques in the past.
"Professional interrogation has become a very useful and necessary way to obtain information to save innocent lives, to disrupt terrorist schemes and to protect our combat forces," Goss told the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
"The United States does not engage in or condone torture," he added. "I know for a fact that torture is not productive. That's not professional interrogation. We don't torture."
Goss, who took over the Central Intelligence Agency last September, assured the committee the CIA complied fully with a broad definition of torture contained in a Justice Department memo issued on Dec. 30, 2004.
"At this time, there are no techniques, if I could say, that are being employed that are in any way against the law or would be considered torture," he said at a public hearing held to examine worldwide threats to U.S. national security.
He could not offer assurances about CIA practices earlier last year, when the government followed a narrower interrogation policy that critics say led to torture.
"Are you able to tell us today that there were no techniques being used by the intelligence community that were against the law ... up to the end of 2004?" asked Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee's ranking Democrat.
"I am not able to tell you that," said Goss, who offered to discuss the issue further at a later closed-door session.
DETAINEE TRANSFER CONTROVERSY
The U.S. intelligence community's interrogation and detention practices have drawn increasing world attention amid a recent series of media reports that have focused on a CIA policy of transferring detainees to countries known to practice torture.
Senate Democrats have also stepped up pressure on Republican lawmakers for a congressional investigation of the CIA detainee issue.
The CIA inspector general is investigating about a half-dozen cases of suspected abuse. Two others have been referred to the Justice Department, including the case of a CIA contractor charged in the 2003 death of an Afghan detainee.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States is estimated to have sent 100 to 150 detainees to countries known to engage in torture, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan.
Officials said the U.S. military had also held about 30 unregistered "ghost" detainees at facilities in Iraq at the CIA's request.
"Terrorists brought the war to our soil. We have taken the war to them. Sometimes this requires what we euphemistically call a kinetic solution on foreign soil," Goss said.
Republican John McCain of Arizona told Goss he was concerned interrogators in suspected abuse cases may not have known what methods were acceptable.
"If you're going to talk about the techniques ... there has been in that case some uncertainty. There has been an attempt to determine what those policies are. I think that that uncertainty is largely resolved," the CIA director replied.