Release the Senate torture report

Last week, John Rizzo told an audience at Fordham Law School that he supports the public release of a Senate report on CIA interrogation and detention after 9/11. Rizzo, acting CIA general counsel 2001-2002 and 2004-2009, and one of the Bush Administration legal officials who approved many of the torture techniques used in interrogations of terror suspects, said adamantly, “I would like to see it released.”

At the Fordham event, Rizzo went on to say that he thinks the report, if not released with appropriate redactions, is “going to be leaked” anyway, and that as a former CIA employee, he has not seen any part of the report, but would like to. Rizzo defended the use and legality of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” saying that they “worked,” and were not torture. But the Senate report apparently says differently.

ADVERTISEMENT
The report, an exhaustive 6,000-plus page study of CIA interrogation and detention post-9/11 undertaken by the Senate intelligence committee, reportedly demonstrates that torture was not effective or important in fighting terrorism and stopping terrorist attacks. It also reportedly shows that the CIA misled Congress about the program’s effectiveness and what was actually being done to detainees. The report has been adopted by the intelligence committee, but the committee has to vote before it can be declassified and released.

The CIA has produced a response to the report, but has apparently dragged its heels in cooperating with the committee to make progress towards release.  One key point of contention is an internal review of the CIA program conducted under then-CIA Director Leon Panetta, which apparently contradicts the CIA’s official response to the intelligence committee, and bolsters many of the committee’s findings.  That review—which remains classified—has not been provided to the committee, despite repeated requests.

John Brennan, current CIA director, faced tough questions last Wednesday from Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)and Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) about the apparent CIA intransigence on the report, and refusal to provide access to the results of the internal CIA review.  At a Senate hearing on emerging threats, the senators took Brennan to task for the CIA’s lack of cooperation with the intelligence committee. Sen. Heinrich even told Brennan, “Recent efforts undertaken by the CIA, including but not limited to inaccurate public statements about the committee’s study, are meant to intimidate, deflect and thwart legitimate oversight.”

Vice President Joe Biden and former Defense Department General Counsel (and now head of Homeland Security Department) Jeh Johnson have expressed support for the report’s release. Now even John Rizzo, one of the most outspoken proponents of the CIA torture program has come out in support of releasing the report.

The Senate Intelligence Committee should declassify and release the report. President Obama, for whom ending torture is a signature issue, should ensure that the CIA cooperates with the committee to that end. The American people deserve to know the truth about what was done in their name.

Jacobson is a program associate at Human Rights First.