The Senate intelligence committee is poised to release a landmark inquiry into torture as early as Tuesday, after the Obama administration made a last-ditch effort to suppress a report that has plunged relations between the CIA and its Senate overseer to a historic low point.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday the administration welcomed the release of the report, but warned US interests overseas were at risk of potentially violent reactions to its contents.
The release of the torture report will represent the third major airing of faulty CIA intelligence in 15 years, following official commissions into the 9/11 plot and Saddam Hussein’s defunct illicit weapons programs.
The Senate report is likely to attract global attention, owing to the CIA’s network of unacknowledged prisons in places like Poland, Thailand and Afghanistan.
Human-rights investigators have found 54 countries cooperated in various ways with the CIA’s renditions, detentions and interrogations, but the commitee is unlikely to reveal the agency’s foreign torture partners.
On Friday, secretary of state John Kerry called Senator Dianne Feinstein – the California Democrat who spearheaded the inquiry – to urge consideration of what spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the “foreign policy implications” of the report’s timing, suggesting it could inflame anti-American outrage worldwide.
Bloomberg first reported that the committee understood Kerry to be arguing for suppressing the report, though the State Department denies it.
Congressman Mike Rogers, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee said on Sunday that US allies have warned that the release of the report could provoke “violence and deaths”.
“I think this is a terrible idea,” Rogers told CNN. “Foreign leaders have approached the government and said, ‘You do this, this will cause violence and deaths.’ Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths.”
Several foreign governments, including the UK and Poland, are fearful of identification by the Senate and have added to the pressure on the committee.
Jose Rodriguez, a former senior CIA official who has ardently defended torture, has already published an op-ed accusing Feinstein and her committee allies of breaking faith with a CIA it once wanted to do its utmost to stop terrorism. Several former CIA directors and Bush officials intend to argue that the Senate investigation is itself misleading.
Rodriguez, writing in the Washington Post, said that the committee’s conclusion that torture “brought no intelligence value is an egregious falsehood” and termed the report “a dishonest attempt to rewrite history”.
After the committee voted in April to declassify sections of the report, Feinstein called the CIA’s actions a “stain on our history”.
Feinstein hoped the committee would finish its declassification negotiations with the administration within 30 days. Yet the White House placed the CIA in charge of censoring a report into its own conduct and discussions have stretched into their 10th month. In August, Feinstein and other leading Senate Democrats rejected proposed administration redactions, saying they would leave the committee’s findings incomprehensible. The agency has rejected even the use of pseudonyms for its operatives on the grounds they could reveal classified identities.
Beyond questions of accountability, a lingering effect of the report is likely to be damage between the CIA and the secret Senate committee that oversees the powerful intelligence agency.
As Rodriguez hints at in his WaPo piece linked to above (and again, here), the CIA acted at the explicit direction of the very Democrats, like Feinstein, who are now preparing to unleash the fury of the world on the United States.
On May 26, 2002, Feinstein was quoted in the New York Times saying that the attacks of 9/11 were a real awakening and that it would no longer be “business as usual.” The attacks, she said, let us know “that the threat is profound” and “that we have to do some things that historically we have not wanted to do to protect ourselves.”
After extraordinary CIA efforts, aided by information obtained through the enhanced-interrogation program, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed architect of the 9/11 attacks, was captured in Pakistan. Shortly afterward, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), then the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, appeared on CNN’s “Late Edition” on March 2, 2003. Rockefeller, who had been extensively briefed about the CIA’s efforts, told Wolf Blitzer that “happily, we don’t know where [KSM] is,” adding: “He’s in safekeeping, under American protection. He’ll be grilled by us. I’m sure we’ll be proper with him, but I’m sure we’ll be very, very tough with him.”
When Blitzer asked about how KSM would be interrogated, Rockefeller assured him that “there are presidential memorandums that prescribe and allow certain measures to be taken, but we have to be careful.” Then he added: “On the other hand, he does have the information. Getting that information will save American lives. We have no business not getting that information.”
And that’s not all. Blitzer asked if the United States should turn over KSM to a friendly country with no restrictions against torture. Rockefeller, laughing, said he wouldn’t rule it out: “I wouldn’t take anything off the table where he is concerned, because this is the man who has killed hundreds and hundreds of Americans over the last 10 years.”
If Feinstein, Rockefeller and other politicians were saying such things in print and on national TV, imagine what they were saying to us in private. We did what we were asked to do, we did what we were assured was legal, and we know our actions were effective. Our reward, a decade later, is to hear some of these same politicians expressing outrage for what was done and, even worse, mischaracterizing the actions taken and understating the successes achieved.
From what I’ve read, those politicians were saying extraordinary things to the CIA in private, urging tactics even the spy agency wouldn’t do (actually, it’s reminiscent of the scene in the Godfather, when the Don has to break the news to the distraught father that there are some acts of revenge the Mafia won’t engage in). After their terror subsided, Feinstein et also resumed their progressive hats and expressed shock at the very things: waterboarding, for instance, they’d personally authorized in 2002.
None of this is surprising, but, like the revelation of torture at Abu Ghraib or even the spying by the NSA on other countries, neither is it unknown. What will happen here, and I assume it’s what the Democrats want, is the the news will spur riots and deaths around the globe by the usual suspects, the mob in the street. The blood from the resulting deaths will be on Feinstein’s hands.