Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s quest to release a long-awaited and bitterly divisive report on the CIA’s Bush-era detention and interrogation practices gained the support of two key senators on Wednesday, all but ensuring majority support to release the report’s primary findings.
In a joint statement, centrist senators Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, and Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, said they will support the release of the findings, conclusions, and executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report. The show of support comes ahead of a Thursday vote to release the summary and adds a thin bipartisan sheen to Feinstein’s efforts to expose the CIA’s harsh interrogation tactics in the post-9/11 era.
"We remain strongly opposed to the use of torture, believing that it is fundamentally contrary to American values," Collins and King said in the statement. "While we have some concerns about the process for developing the report, its findings lead us to conclude that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture. This inhumane and brutal treatment never should have occurred."
The interrogation report is the product of three years’ work and $40 million in preparation costs. Ever since its completion in December 2012, there has been strong disagreement among intelligence officials and lawmakers over how much information the public should be allowed to read, in large part because there’s no agreement on the findings. Some officials say it is deeply flawed and inaccurate, but others consider it the most authoritative account of one of the darkest chapters in the CIA’s history.
Officials who are familiar with the report’s conclusions say that it offers detailed examples of how subjecting prisoners to harsh interrogations, including what human rights groups and others call torture, may have been counterproductive, and that the techniques didn’t produce any leads that helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden, as some current and former CIA officials claim.
Saxby Chambliss, the Intelligence Committee’s top Republican, has said the report contains "omissions about the history and utility of the CIA’s detention program." He also said investigators compiled their findings "without interviewing any of the people involved" in the CIA program.
Feinstein would like the report to go down in history as the most detailed and accurate indictment of Bush-era interrogation practices, while critics of the report and the CIA want it tarred as one-sided and partisan. The support of Collins and King will give the report legitimacy, but only so much.
The senators made sure to qualify their support for the report’s release with concerns that it wasn’t an ideal investigation.
"The report has some intrinsic limitations because it did not involve direct interviews of CIA officials, contract personnel, or other Executive branch personnel," they stated. "It also, unfortunately, did not include the participation of the staff of Republican Committee members."
Ultimately, they said that transparency is the single most important issue at hand and that "the American public can reach their own conclusions about the conduct of this program."
Shane Harris is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy, covering intelligence and cyber security. He is the author of The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State, which chronicles the creation of a vast national security apparatus and the rise of surveillance in America. The Watchers won the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Economist named it one of the best books of 2010. Shane is the winner of the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. He has four times been named a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists, which honor the best journalists in America under the age of 35. Prior to joining Foreign Policy, he was the senior writer for The Washingtonian and a staff correspondent at National Journal.| The Cable |