WASHINGTON : The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to release key parts of its classified report on the CIA’s brutal interrogation program, with President Barack Obama urging the sharply critical findings quickly be made public. The 6,300-page report of the Bush-era program, which has triggered extraordinary tensions between the Central Intelligence Agency and its congressional overseers, details one of the most unsavory periods in the agency’s history.
“The purpose of this review was to uncover the facts behind this secret program, and the results were shocking,” committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein said after the 11-3 vote. “The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation. It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen.” The vote allows Feinstein to send the 400-page executive summary and key recommendations to the White House, which said Obama wants the declassification “completed as expeditiously as possible.”
“Having prohibited these practices upon taking office, the president believes that bringing this program into the light will help the American people understand what happened in the past and can help guide us as we move forward, so that no administration contemplates such a program in the future,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
The report found that the CIA misled the government and the public for years about parts of the program and overstated the significance of intelligence gleaned from detainees subjected to hard techniques at secret CIA-run “black sites” outside the US, officials familiar with the report told The Washington Post.
More than 100 detainees were subjected to the interrogation program.
Feinstein said she hoped the redactions would be “as few as possible,” and predicted the process would take at least a month.
Senator Saxby Chambliss, the committee’s top Republican, criticized the exhaustive investigation as a “waste of time.” But he reluctantly voted to declassify parts of it so that Americans can assess the program’s legacy for themselves.
“The general public has the right to now know what was done and what’s in the report,” Chambliss told reporters. “We need to get this behind us.”
Three of the panel’s seven Republicans voted against release, including Senators Marco Rubio and Jim Risch, who blasted the report as an expensive bipartisan boondoggle that could cause potentially lethal and diplomatic harm if published.
Releasing it ignores warnings from the State Department and US allies that declassification “could endanger the lives of American diplomats and citizens overseas and jeopardize US relations with other countries,” Rubio and Risch said in a statement.
The detention and interrogation program, begun shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, used “enhanced interrogation techniques” including waterboarding, which Obama and others have likened to torture.
Senate staffers spent five years reviewing more than six million pages of documents to compile what became one of the most exhaustive examples of congressional oversight in US history.
The vote earned praise from rights groups keen on bringing the full report to light and end what Human Rights First called “the false debate about the legitimacy and efficacy of cruelty.”
“The decision to embrace torture rested on the assertion that waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and other abuses were effective in gaining intelligence necessary to save American lives,” said Human Rights First president Elisa Massimino.
“This report will show that assertion to be false.”
Feinstein said she will move to get the entire report released, but did not give a timeframe.
The CIA will lead the declassification review.
But the American Civil Liberties Union urged Obama to bar the agency that used the abusive interrogation methods from deciding on the redactions.
“The CIA should not be handed a blackout pen to hide its use of torture or the lies it told to keep the torture program going,” the ACLU said.