Nerves fray over timing of CIA interrogation report's release

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Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee have been planning for months to release the findings of their investigation on the CIA's Bush-era interrogation program this fall.

But with little more than 60 days until the midterm elections, a release of the report could leave Democrats vulnerable to attack from Republicans and other critics who say its details about U.S. intelligence gathering might jeopardize national security.

The anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is less than two weeks away, offering another echo of the grave threats that face the United States and thereby presenting one more obstacle to an imminent release of the report. 

Earlier this month, an internal U.S. intelligence memo warned that publication of the report could potentially result in violent street protests and threats to U.S. embassies and personnel overseas, according to Yahoo! News

"We got a big fight going on in Iraq and Syria right now," Daniel Gallington, senior policy and program adviser at the George C. Marshall Institute told The Hill. Gallington previously served as bipartisan general counsel for the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

"The timing of this thing will already serve to inflame all kinds of ignorant audiences throughout the world. Is the timing responsible? I think, no, it's not," he said. 

Americans might also have even less appetite than usual right now for criticism of intelligence agencies that see themselves as fighting on the frontline against terrorists.

The gruesome beheading of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is fresh in the public’s mind. 

new survey by Rasmussen Reports said three out of four voters felt Foley's killer should be sentenced to death if tried and convicted in an American court. 

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The group has already threatened to behead another journalist, Steven Sotloff, if the United States does not stop airstrikes in Iraq. ABC News has reported ISIS is also holding a 26-year-old American woman. 

"These are people who kill children and women for going to school," said Gallington. "They adhere to no rules whatsoever, no international laws. They've broken every human rights rule in every country, and yet they expect to be treated like ladies and gentlemen." 

The report has long been a partisan issue. Republicans on the committee refused to take part in the investigation, which was launched by committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in 2009. 

Feinstein’s staff has reviewed more than 6 million documents and produced a 6,300-page report with a 500-page summary. The report's summary, findings and conclusions were slated to be released in August, after the administration's review, but that was delayed after Feinstein said she wanted to roll back some of the CIA's heavy redactions. 

Those who have seen the report say it will contain shocking new details about the CIA's program, showing that no useful intelligence was gleaned from enhanced interrogation techniques and that those techniques amounted to torture. 

Republicans disagree, saying the report is an attempt to embarrass the Bush administration and CIA officials who conducted the program. Republican committee members have written a dissent to the report's findings. 

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who sits on the Intelligence committee and is facing a tough Senate reelection bid against GOP challenger Rep. Cory Gardner, supports releasing the findings on the program because it could "shed light on this dark chapter of American history," according to a spokesman. 

"He believes the swift declassification — with as few redactions as possible — will not only provide a full and accurate accounting of this misguided and destructive program but also will ensure future administrations do not repeat its mistakes," said Udall's Communications Director Mike Saccone. 

"It also forcefully rebuts arguments that torture is effective," Saccone added. 

Feinstein is adamant that the report’s findings should be released, an aide said. 

“The senator remains committed to releasing the executive summary and the findings and conclusions of the study," said Feinstein aide Tom Mentzer. 

However, Feinstein has quietly asked the Department of Justice to wait another month before releasing the report under a FOIA request. 

In an Aug. 12, 2014, letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Feinstein wrote, "I ask that you request an additional one-month delay from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, where the FOIA litigation is pending." 

Feinstein said the delay was useful so that the committee and the administration could continue working on reducing redactions to the report, which she said would also benefit the FOIA requester as well. 

A month's delay would allow the committee to hold the report until after Sept. 11, but it could bring any potential release even closer to Election Day, Nov. 4. 

Gallington insisted the committee's effort at oversight has turned into a strictly partisan endeavor. 

"That was the intention behind the report all along," he said. "It was purely a Democratic effort." 

But Democratic senators who sit on the committee vigorously disagree, saying the report will benefit the nation in the long run.

An aide to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said the senator "believes that the United States needs to look squarely at actions it has undertaken, to learn from any mistakes that were made, and to make improvements in the future."

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