Marine Le Pen, France's National Front political party leader (C)
Marine Le Pen, France's National Front political party leader (C)Reuters

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has retracted her earlier statements condoning torture as a "useful" tool, following the release of a damning "CIA torture report" by the US Senate Intelligence Committee.

The rising leader of the Front National (FN) party said that she "did not condemn" the use of torture when questioning terror suspects, in an interview with BFMTV.

"Of course [torture] can be used," she said. "It's been used throughout history."

"I believe that the people responsible for getting information out of terror suspects that can save civilian lives do a responsible job," she added.

"There are times, such as if a bomb is about to go off, when it is useful to get a suspect to talk...by any means."

However, she later backtracked saying on Twitter that her words had been "misinterpreted":

"When dealing with terrorism, we can't behave like angels. But 'by any means' means within the law, so obviously not torture," she wrote.

The harrowing torture report reveals multiple CIA misrepresentations about the effectiveness of the torture program, which is more brutal and unaccountable than previously thought.

The 500-page summary depicts an ill-equipped agency taking on the difficult task of questioning al-Qaeda suspects. The CIA is revealed to have mishandled the job and misled the White House on the results.

Le Pen's FN party has come under scrutiny after it admitted that it borrowed €9m from a Russian lender, confirming an earlier report by investigative news site Mediapart.

Marine's father and founder of the far-right party, Jean-Marie Le Pen has been accused of torturing people he accused of hiding weapons during the Algerian war of independence in 1957.

He is said to have used cattle prods, gags and water torture to exact information. But Le Pen always denied using torture while serving with the French army and threatened to sue his accusers.

A military magazine, Combat, quoted him in 1962 as saying that he tortured "because we had to". "When one is brought someone who has just planted 20 bombs which could explode at any moment, and he does not want to talk, exceptional methods are needed to make him talk," he allegedly said.

Le Pen sued two newspapers, Liberation and Le Canard Enchaine, for similar allegations.