Congress, CIA at impasse over torture report

A man crosses the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on August 14, 2008. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

One of the chief architects of a Senate report on the interrogation methods used by the CIA after September 11, 2001 said Tuesday that the report is too heavily redacted by the administration, and that it won't be made public until her concern is addressed.

"After further review of the redacted version of the executive summary, I have concluded the redactions eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report's findings and conclusions," said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in a statement.

Feinstein, whose committee authored the report, said she would send a letter to the president "laying out a series of changes to the redactions that we believe are necessary prior to public release." She vowed to block the report's release until she's "satisfied that all redactions are appropriate."

The report documents the CIA's controversial use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," dubbed "torture" by critics, in counterterrorism efforts after the 9/11 attacks. Though the methods under scrutiny were banned by President Obama in 2009, Feinstein and others have pushed for a full accounting of their use to ensure they aren't restarted under later administrations.

"The bottom line is that the United States must never again make the mistakes documented in this report," Feinstein said Tuesday. "I believe the best way to accomplish that is to make public our thorough documentary history of the CIA's program. That is why I believe taking our time and getting it right is so important, and I will not rush this process."

Intelligence officials seemed to anticipate the criticism about redactions. In a statement released last Friday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper emphasized the fact that "85 percent of the committee report has been declassified, and half of the redactions are in footnotes."

"The redactions were the result of an extensive and unprecedented interagency process, headed up by my office, to protect sensitive classified information," he explained. "We are confident that the declassified document delivered to the Committee will provide the public with a full view of the Committee's report on the detention and interrogation program, and we look forward to a constructive dialogue with the Committee."

At least one other Democrat on the committee, though, seconded Feinstein's concerns, calling the redactions in the report "excessive" and pushing for greater declassification.

"While Director Clapper may be technically correct that the document has been 85 percent declassified, it is also true that strategically placed redactions can make a narrative incomprehensible and can certainly make it more difficult to understand the basis for the findings and conclusions reached in the report," said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., on Tuesday.

Udall said he recognizes the need to protect intelligence sources and methods, but he said the public needs "to understand what happened."

"I believe that the chairman should take all necessary time to ensure that the redactions to the executive summary are appropriate -- not merely made to cover up acts that could embarrass the agency," he said. "The CIA should not face its past with a redaction pen, and the White House must not allow it to do so."

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., has remained mum on the redactions, saying in a statement last Friday that he would "review" any information omitted from the executive summary before the report is released.

He's unlikely to cry foul about any parts missing from the document, though, in part because he opposed the investigation that produced it. He and other Republicans on the committee have raised concerns about the report's findings, including the decision to label the interrogation methods "torture" and the assertion that the methods yielded no actionable intelligence.

Sunday on CBS News' "Face the Nation," Chambliss said that information obtained using the controversial interrogation techniques "was, in fact, used to interrupt and disrupt terrorist plots, including some information that took down [Osama] bin Laden."

Some have disputed that point, though, saying it's difficult to isolate the source of the information that ultimately brought the al Qaeda leader to justice.

"We won't know finally where the piece of intelligence that led to the identification of Osama Bin Laden's hideout came from," said Washington Post columnist David Ignatius on "Face the Nation. "And to say...that we do -- that seems to misstate the record as I understand it."

  • Jake Miller

Comments