“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,” Mr Obama said in a speech at the agency’s headquarters.
“So I want to make a point that…I understand that it’s hard when you are asked to protect the American people against people who have no scruples and would willingly and gladly kill innocents.”
Last week, Mr Obama released documents written by officials in President George W. Bush’s administration that contained details of the CIA’s methods of extracting information from al-Qaeda suspects between 2002 and 2005.
Although Mr Obama said that neither CIA interrogators nor the authors of the memos should be prosecuted, civil liberties groups have demanded that torture charges be brought, arguing that the “Nuremberg defence” of following orders is unacceptable.