President Barack Obama heaped praise on the CIA, vowing his "full support" and telling employees not to be discouraged by his release of stunning details on the agency's harsh terror interrogations.
The president yesterday reassured the embattled spies at their Virginia headquarters amid a heated controversy over his release of secret memos detailing Bush-era interrogations of terror suspects denounced as torture by critics.
If there were hard feelings, they weren't on public display at the Central Intelligence Agency. Hundreds of agency employees packed the lobby of the original headquarters building to hear Obama and exploded in cheers and applause when he strode in with CIA director Leon Panetta.
"Don't be discouraged by what's happened the last few weeks. Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we have made some mistakes that's how we learn," Obama said.
"But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States and that's why you should be proud to be members of the CIA."
Obama's first visit to the agency's headquarters coincided with fresh revelations about the repeated use of waterboarding, or near-drowning, on up to 266 occasions by CIA interrogators against two top Al-Qaeda terror suspects.