The CIA and torture——Into the light
A pull-no-punches report is to be released
THOSE who do not publish history's mistakes are doomed to repeat them. That, in essence, is the concern that lies behind plans by the Senate Intelligence Committee, with support from the White House, to declassify and release hundreds of pages from a scathing report into CIA detention, rendition and interrogation methods used after the September 11th 2001 attacks, which accuses the agency of misleading Congress and the White House about the value of intelligence extracted from more than 100 terror suspects in a worldwide network of secret “black sites”.
The CIA has promised to work “expeditiously” to scrub the nearly 500-page summary of information that could imperil national security. Veterans of the spy agency, backed by many Republicans, have challenged the report—prepared by Democratic staffers of the Senate Intelligence Committee and drawing on millions of internal CIA records—as a flawed and partisan bid to smear the CIA and the administration of George W. Bush.
The attorney-general, Eric Holder, said on April 8th that President Barack Obama believes that bringing the programme “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 government would contemplate such actions in the future.
Officials who have seen the report have briefed reporters that it describes previously undisclosed horrors, among them the “Salt Pit”, a site near Kabul, at which one terror suspect had his head repeatedly held under iced water and was repeatedly beaten. The report examines20 case studies, arguing that, each time, the same intelligence could have been obtained without torture.
The CIA insists that it is impossible to know what milder methods might have achieved, and may release its own response to the report. The agency is already locked in a remarkable public fight with the Democratic chairman of the intelligence committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, traditionally a doughty defender of America's spooks. Trust is at such a low ebb that Mrs. Feinstein wants the White House to take the lead on editing the public report. On April 6th Michael Hayden, the CIA's director from 2006 to 2009, had suggested that the senator was taking an “emotional” approach to the report.
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