In startlingly blunt phrasing, President Obama on Friday acknowledged the CIA’s use of brutal interrogation tactics in the years after the Sept. 11 attack, even as he defended the agency’s top spy, who is a veteran of the era.

“We tortured some folks,” Obama said to reporters during a news conference Friday. “We did some things that were contrary to our values.”

Obama has used the word “torture” before to describe the harsh interrogation tactics used at CIA-run secret prisons during the Bush administration. But his words at a White House news conference were notably more direct than previous statements.

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