National Security

Pentagon nominee under fire for work on Senate ‘torture report’

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A former congressional aide and Pentagon nominee is coming under fire over her work assembling the Senate Intelligence Committee’s damning report about the CIA’s former policy allowing brutal interrogations.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) used his time during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday to press former Intelligence Committee aide Alissa Starzak about a secret CIA document compiled by former Director Leon Panetta.

{mosads}That analysis, known as the “Panetta Review,” is comprised of over 40 documents that are believed to endorse the Senate panel’s exceedingly critical conclusions about the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation” program.  

According to the committee’s 2014 report, the program — which involved waterboarding, rectal feeding and other harsh treatment widely condemned as torture — failed to yield useful information and was carried out in part behind the backs of the CIA’s overseers in Washington. 

The Panetta Review has never been made public, and a federal judge in May blocked efforts to bring it to light. However, the Senate Intelligence Committee obtained a copy in 2010 through means that have yet to be fully disclosed.

“As you know, the CIA believes the Intelligence Committee staff should never have had access to the Panetta Review,” Cotton told Starzak on Thursday.

The committee’s possession of the report set off a period of panicked frenzy at the CIA, with agency officials searching the committee’s side of a walled-off computer network in what then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) suggested could have been a violation of the Constitution.

“I have no idea” why the document was on the Senate’s side of the computer system, Starzak said on Thursday during a hearing about her nomination to be general counsel of the Army. Starzak is currently the Pentagon’s deputy general counsel.

Her nomination is believed to be held up at the request of current Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), which has outraged Feinstein.

“I believe I had access to” the Panetta Review while working on the Senate committee’s “torture report,” Starzak said on Thursday. “I do not remember at this point, four-and-a-half years later, how often I accessed it.”

In response to extended questioning from Cotton, Starzak said she did not recall “recording, making use of or taking notes about” the review.

She left the committee in May of 2011. More than two years later, someone with the committee printed out the review and snuck it out of a CIA facility in Northern Virginia to a secure committee space on Capitol Hill.   

“I was not at the committee at the time,” Starzak told Cotton, and could not say who removed the report.

Tags Alissa Starzak Panetta review Tom Cotton torture report

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