Senate intel panel approves torture report

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday voted to approve its long-awaited report on the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” under former President George W. Bush.

Members of the Democrat-led panel voted largely along party lines, 9-6, to approve the more than 6,000-page report. The report has been more than three years in the making and will remain classified at least until the Obama administration has a chance to review it.

ADVERTISEMENT
Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that after reviewing more than 6 million pages of CIA and intelligence documents, investigators issued a series of 20 findings and conclusions, which the panel also voted to approve.

Feinstein said she hopes the report will help to resolve long-lasting disagreements over whether U.S. military and spy agencies should ever use interrogation tactics, such as sleep deprivation and waterboarding.

“The report uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight,” said Feinstein in a statement.


“I am confident the CIA will emerge a better and more able organization as a result of the committee’s work. I also believe this report will settle the debate once and for all over whether our nation should ever employ coercive interrogation techniques such as those detailed in this report.”

Thursday's vote triggers a lengthy review process in which the White House, the intelligence community and members of the panel will determine what information, if any, can ultimately be declassified and released to the public. Feinstein told reporters on Wednesday that it would be a tricky declassification process because much of the material reviewed by investigators was itself classified. 

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who sits on the intelligence panel and was a prisoner of war during Vietnam, pressed his colleagues to release the report to the public.

“Our enemies may act without conscience, but we do not,”  McCain said in a statement ahead of the vote, which he did not attend because he was scheduled to appear at an event in Arizona.

“It is indispensable to our success in this war that those we ask to fight it know that, in the discharge of their dangerous responsibilities to our country, they are never expected to forget that they are Americans, and the valiant defenders of a sacred idea of how nations should be governed and conduct their relations with others — even our enemies.”

Scores of human rights groups also pressed for the report’s public release, saying that it’s declassification was essential to “set the record straight.”

The release of the report would likely move the issue of enhanced interrogation to the forefront of the political debate, as discussions over whether to close the Guantánamo Bay prison have recently been reignited. The prison — where many of the U.S.’s high-value detainees who were captured abroad have been held — is seen by some to be a continuing symbol of the controversial interrogation techniques and damaging to America’s reputation in the world.

President Obama banned the use of the controversial interrogation techniques as one of his first acts in the White House.

Some Republicans and intelligence officials argue that the president wouldn't have been able to order the killing of Osama bin Laden without the intelligence that the techniques produced.  

Democrats have waged an extensive battle against the controversial interrogation methods. They said they were misled about the use of the tactics and argue they amounted to torture and violated international war laws.

The Bush administration argued that the methods, which were used on self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, among others, were within the law and helped U.S. intelligence officials disrupt terrorist plots against the United States.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) came under fire in 2009, when it was revealed that CIA officials briefed her and other members of the House Intelligence Committee about the techniques in 2002 and 2003. 

Around the same time, the Senate Intelligence Committee, under the direction of Feinstein, launched the first extensive investigation into whether the techniques were useful in gathering intelligence.

— This story was updated at 5:50 p.m.