On a visit to CIA headquarters, President Barack Obama stated it was time to admit “mistakes” and “move forward” – by promising CIA agents would not face legal action over their involvement in torture and adding “you should be proud to be members of the CIA”.
This followed his decision to release memos detailing CIA torture that were requested under freedom of information legislation.
The memos revealed, among other things, that two people were subjected to a form of near-drowning, known as waterboarding, a total of 266 times.
The CIA defended waterboarding, claiming it was only used for two two-hour sessions a day. In each session detainees suffered effective drowning six times for between 10 and 40 seconds.
The CIA interrogation programme, which former president George Bush ruled lawful, also included slamming prisoners into walls, shackling them in uncomfortable positions and sleep deprivation.
Despite Obama’s pledge, pressure is growing for legal action against those who both authorised and carried out torture.