Obama, speaking at an impromptu news conference in the White House briefing room, said most of those involved in interrogations were "real patriots" who were under "enormous pressure." But, he said the country needs to recognize that some of what they did to get information was wrong.
"We did a lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks," Obama said. "We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened."
The White House is currently reviewing a Senate Intelligence Committee report on "enhanced interrogation" during the administration of President George W. Bush to determine how much can be declassified. The report is expected to say that officials overstated the effectiveness of techniques like waterboarding.
"When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques -- techniques that I believe, and any fair minded person would believe, were torture -- we crossed a line, and that needs to be understood and accepted," Obama said. "And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so hopefully we don't do it again in the future."