CIA Sought to Sway Public by Leaking Secrets, Senate Report Says

The CIA sought to shape public and lawmaker opinions about the success of its interrogations by leaking classified information to select journalists, including NBC’s Tom Brokaw, according to a Senate committee’s report.

The agency drafted a document in early April 2005 for a campaign that would describe the program without attributing information to the Central Intelligence Agency itself, according to the report released yesterday. CIA officials compared their efforts to the work done by the Office of War Information during World War II, according to the report.

“We either get out and sell, or we get hammered, which has implications beyond the media,” Philip Mudd, deputy director of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, wrote in an April 2005 e-mail cited in the report. “Congress reads it, cuts our authorities, messes up our budget, we need to make sure the impression of what we do is positive.”

The Senate intelligence committee report, which cost $40 million and took six years to complete, is the most comprehensive assessment of the CIA’s “black site” detention facilities and “enhanced interrogation techniques” on terrorism suspects following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. President Barack Obama, who said the program amounted to torture, ordered that the practices never be used again when he took office in 2009.

NBC ‘Dateline’

As a result of the publicity campaign, NBC’s “Dateline” aired a program on June 24, 2005, that quoted CIA Director Porter Goss and Mudd, as well as unidentified intelligence officials, according to the report. Among other claims, NBC reported that the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh led ultimately to the captures of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- a 9/11 plotter -- and Khallad bin Attash, according to the report.

A representative for NBC referred requests for comment to a “Dateline” publicist, who didn’t respond to phone and e-mail messages.

In its response to the Senate report, the CIA disputed assertions that it “intentionally misrepresented the program to Congress, others in the Executive Branch, and the media.”

“We still must question a report that impugns the integrity of so many CIA officers when it implies -- as it does clearly throughout the conclusions -- that the Agency’s assessments were willfully misrepresented in a calculated effort to manipulate,” the CIA said yesterday.

Congressional and administration officials have said current CIA Director John Brennan, who wasn’t leading the agency at the time of the interrogations, and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough have battled the Senate committee for months in an effort to redact as much of the report as possible.

Opponents of releasing the report also have created a website, CIASavedLives.com, where they plan to publish declassified documents, opinion pieces and media reports to rebut the Senate Democrats’ report. The site is being curated by William Harlow, former spokesman at the CIA.

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