Senate Intel panel approves CIA report

Greg Nash

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday voted to declassify parts of its controversial report on Bush-era interrogation tactics, paving the way for the report’s public release.

The Intelligence panel voted 11-3 to make public the report’s 400-page executive summary and its conclusions and findings, as well as the dissenting view from Republicans.

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The report will now be sent to the CIA for redactions before it is released to the public.

Democratic senators on the panel say the long-delayed report concludes that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA during the George W. Bush administration did not aid in tracking down Osama bin Laden.

The CIA has disputed that conclusion and other key findings in the Senate’s report, and Republicans on the panel, who did not participate in investigating and drafting the report, objected to its conclusions.

Most Republicans on the committee voted against approving the report when the first draft was completed in December 2012, but three Republicans voted Thursday to declassify it, including committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).

The committee did not release a record of the vote, which occurred in closed session.

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) heralded Thursday’s action.

“The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrasts to our values,” Feinstein said after the vote. “It chronicles a stain on our history that must never be allowed to happen again. This is not what Americans do.”

She said the report found “major problems’ with the CIA’s management of the interrogation program and how it disclosed it to the White House and Congress.

Chambliss, in contrast, said that the report was a “waste of time.” Nevertheless, he voted in favor of declassification so the public could “make up their minds about whether or not this was done properly.”

“I voted in favor of declassification for this reason: We need to get this behind us,” Chambliss said. “This is a chapter in our past that should have already been closed.  However, the general public has the right to now know what was done and what’s in the report, from the standpoint of the executive summary, findings and conclusions, as well as the way the minority feels about it.”

The minority dissent says that contrary to the report’s findings, there was “information gleaned from this program which led not only to the takedown of bin Laden, but to the interruption and disruption of other terrorist plots over a period if years,” Chambliss said.

Republican Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.) and Susan Collins (Maine) also voted for declassification.

Burr agreed with Chambliss in voting to declassify the report, disputing its findings.

Collins, however, said that despite the report’s flaws, “its fundamental conclusion about the mistreatment of detainees is accurate.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) voted present, due to the fact that he was not on the committee when the report was initially approved, he said.

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Dan Coats (Ind.) voted against declassification. The other Republican on the panel, Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), was the third no vote, although a spokeswoman declined to confirm how he voted, saying it was classified.

The 6,200-page report has sparked a major feud between the CIA and the committee, with each side accusing the other of potentially breaking the law over an internal CIA review of the interrogation programs.

The dispute flew into the open last month when Feinstein accused the CIA of potentially violating the Constitution by searching her staffers’ computers.

The CIA said it had conducted a search in response to the committee staffers illicitly removing the classified document from a secure CIA facility. Both complaints have been referred to the Justice Department for review.

Feinstein said Thursday that she hopes the CIA will be able to work quickly on the report and get it declassified within 30 days, although she said that was probably “wishful thinking.”

The question now is how heavily the CIA will redact the report’s executive summary and findings.

CIA spokesman Ned Price said that the agency would “carry out the review expeditiously.”

“While we have not yet been provided a final version of the report, our review of the 2012 version found several areas in which CIA and SSCI agreed, and several other areas in which we disagreed,” he said.

Feinstein said she hoped the redactions would be minimal.

“I would hope so,” she said Thursday. “That in itself will indicate I think where we are on this.”

The White House will also play a role. White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama “would expect that the actions that are necessary to declassify a document like that be conducted in all due haste.”

“And I think he would make that clear to the agencies involved in that effort and the individuals involved in that effort,” Carney said.

Carney added that he did not have a deadline for when the redactions would be completed.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who has been one of the most critical senators of the CIA's resistance toward the committee's report, said the president should lead the redaction process “to ensure that as much of this important document as possible sees the light of day.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said after the vote that the CIA will conduct the declassification review in consultation with other agencies.

“Having prohibited these practices upon taking office, the president believes that bringing this program into the light will help the American people understand what happened in the past and can help guide us as we move forward, so that no administration contemplates such a program in the future,” Hayden said in a statement. “The president has been clear that he wants this process completed as expeditiously as possible, consistent with national security, and that’s what we will do.”

Feinstein said that the committee has also updated its full report, which remains classified. She said that she wanted to bring the full report forward for declassification “at a later time.”

This story was updated at 5:09 p.m.