The Senate Intelligence Committee torture report, which was issued last week, is a historic milestone in the effort to reckon with some of the excesses that marred our country’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein for her persistence in ensuring that this report was publicly released.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program began after The New York Times disclosed that in 2005 the CIA had destroyed videotapes showing the CIA’s use of abusive interrogation techniques. The CIA denied the Times’ characterization of the interrogations and invited the Senate Intelligence Committee to review operational cables and e-mails that the CIA argued would clear them of charges of wrongdoing.
After discovering that the documents showed detention conditions and interrogations far worse than what the CIA had previously described, the Intelligence Committee authorized the review by an overwhelming and bipartisan 14-1 vote.
Staffers laboriously studied over 6 million pages of CIA records. During this process the CIA was caught hacking into computers used by Intelligence Committee staff to discover what they had found.
In December 2012, the Committee by a 9-6 bipartisan vote approved the release of the 6700 page report, which contains 38,000 footnotes. In April 2014, after months of negotiations with the CIA, the Intelligence Committee approved the declassification and public report of the executive summary and findings by an 11-3 bipartisan vote. The Administration worked until the last minute to discourage the Committee from releasing this comprehensive report.
To argue that the release of the Feinstein report was a partisan undertaking, as Chicago Sun-Times columnist Steve Huntley and former Vice-President Cheney have suggested, ignores the record of bipartisan votes which led to the preparation and release of this historic report, as well as the opposition of the current administration.
More importantly, this type of public disclosure of the excesses and abuses of government power is what free and democratic governments do and dictators detest. After years of denying that torture like waterboarding was taking place, we now know from their own documents that the CIA was misleading the president, the Congress and the American people.
Some of our enemies may use this disclosure to rally more hatred for the United States, but honestly they are dedicated to harming us and do not need any provocation.