Report on CIA Torture Headed for Public Eyes?

Vote by Senate Intelligence Committee could come this week, but what details public will see remains uncertain

A likely vote this week is set to put the spotlight on aspects of the CIA's post-9/11 torture program.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she has the necessary votes to make public a 400-page summary and list of 20 recommendations based on the body's lengthy report of CIA torture and detention practices including waterboarding and secret "black sites."


A vote to release the report is not the end of the committee's work, according to sources familiar with the process and committee rules. The full Senate doesn't have to approve the report before it hits Obama's desk for him to review the conclusions. But it's Obama who will ultimately decide whether the document needs to be further redacted, as the CIA will likely recommend.

Earlier this month, President Obama said he was "absolutely committed to declassifying that report as soon as the report is completed. In fact, I would urge [the committee] to go ahead and complete the report, send it to us. We will declassify those findings so that the American people can understand what happened in the past, and that can help guide us as we move forward."

Despite this proclamation, the White House has withheld thousands of documents sought by the Committee for its investigation, and, while stating that it wants the American people to "understand what happened in the past," the only individual who has been prosecuted in relation to the torture program is whistleblower John Kiriakou.

Feinstein, who, despite calling CIA practices covered in the report "brutal" and "horrible" still refers to the program as interrogation and detention, not torture, has traded accusations this month with CIA head John Brennan. The Senate committee has accused the CIA of unauthorized searches into congressional files, while the CIA has accused the committee of unauthorized access into the agency's computers.

Among the Senate Intelligence Committee members supporting public release of the torture report is Senator Mark Udall ((D-Colo.), who wrote in a letter to Obama last week that "getting to the truth about the CIA's brutal and ineffective interrogation and detention program goes to the core of the effectiveness and integrity of the CIA as an institution. The American people cannot have faith that the agency is acting effectively and within the law until the flaws of this program are acknowledged and the CIA's misrepresentations are finally corrected."

Though it is the public feud between Feinstein and CIA head John Brennan that has been garnering media attention, University of Washington-Tacoma professor Robert Crawford wrote on Common Dreams, "Let's not neglect what this conflict is about: torture." Crawford continues:

The CIA wants to suppress the Senate report because it will be the closest thing to accountability the Agency will face, especially given Obama's decision not to pursue a criminal investigation or even an independent commission of inquiry--"we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward," the President urged. The report will likely disclose the extent of CIA torture far beyond the horrific practices already revealed. It will document the harm to the country and the stain on national character. Not least, it will challenge the perpetrators and their supporters' assertion that torture "works."


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