Senate Panel Asks Obama to Disclose CIA Interrogations

The Senate intelligence committee called on President Barack Obama to make public key sections of its classified report on extreme interrogation techniques used by the CIA after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The panel voted 11-3 yesterday to ask Obama to declassify the executive summary and 20 findings and conclusions from the 6,200-page report. It would be the government’s most comprehensive public assessment of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, confinement in small spaces and other interrogation techniques used on suspected terrorists at secret prisons during President George W. Bush’s administration.

“The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and the committee’s chairman, said in a statement after a closed-door session authorizing the request. “It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen.”

While lawmakers can request that material be declassified for release, only the executive branch has the power to do so.

The committee report, criticized as inaccurate by some Republicans on the panel, finds that the Central Intelligence Agency failed to disclose to Congress how widely it used “enhanced” interrogation techniques that Obama has called torture and prohibited, according to two U.S. officials who have read the document.

Illegal Detention

Also among the report’s findings are that the CIA illegally detained about two dozen of a total of 119 detainees, used some interrogation techniques that hadn’t been approved by the Justice Department and ignored officials who questioned whether the extreme measures produced accurate intelligence, said the two U.S. officials.

Feinstein said release of the report’s summary “in the near future” shows that “this nation admits its errors, as painful as they may be, and seeks to learn from them.”

The executive summary, findings and conclusions, totaling more than 500 pages, will be sent to Obama for a declassification review and subsequent public release, according to a statement from Feinstein. The statement said Obama “has indicated his support of declassification of these parts of the report,” and that CIA Director John Brennan “has said this will happen expeditiously.”

Obama will proceed with “all due haste” on the Senate committee’s request, spokesman Jay Carney said yesterday. He didn’t say how long a declassification process would take. Lawmakers have predicted weeks or months.

Obama’s Position

While Obama condemned the Bush administration interrogation practices, he also has criticized efforts by Congress to investigate them, saying soon after he became president that Congress should be “looking forward” rather than probing the past.

Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, a Democrat on the committee, said Obama must decide whether to delegate declassification decisions to the CIA or the director of national intelligence or to take charge of the matter himself.

“The president needs to understand that the CIA’s clear conflict of interest here requires that the White House step in and manage this process,” Udall said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the National Security Council, which advises the president, said that the agency was “pleased” by the committee’s vote.

“Our position remains that the executive summary and the findings and conclusions” of the report “should be declassified, with any appropriate redactions necessary to protect national security,” the spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, said in a statement yesterday.

Future Guidance

She said Obama believes that bringing the interrogation procedures “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.”

The report, based on an investigation that began in March 2009, seeks to document that the CIA overstated the value of its enhanced interrogation program and the quality of the intelligence that it provided, according to officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters.

The report describes the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which was in use from September 2001 to January 2009. It reviewed operations at secret prisons run by the CIA, the use of interrogation techniques and the conditions of more than 100 suspects held during that time, according to Feinstein’s statement.

No Comment

The CIA declined to comment on the report. “Until we’re given the opportunity to review it, we are unable to comment on details it may contain,” CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement.

The Senate committee -- comprised of seven Democrats plus an independent who caucuses with them, and seven Republicans -- didn’t release the breakdown of the vote on the declassification request. Comments by lawmakers afterward, though, revealed that while the Democrats and independent Angus King of Maine were united in supporting the declassification effort, the panel’s Republicans were divided.

Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, James Risch of Idaho and Dan Coats of Indiana voted against the measure.

“The Senate intelligence committee today voted to send a one-sided, partisan report to the CIA and White House for declassification despite warnings from the State Department and our allies indicating that declassification of this report could endanger the lives of American diplomats and citizens overseas and jeopardize U.S. relations with other countries,” Rubio and Risch said in a joint statement yesterday.

Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the committee’s top Republican who had opposed conducting the investigation, said he joined the majority in voting to support declassification.

“Despite the report’s significant errors, omissions, and assumptions -- as well as a lot of cherry-picking of the facts - - I want the American people to be able to see it and judge for themselves,” Chambliss said in a statement.

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