Last December, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence completed an extensive review of the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation program” during the Bush administration, compiling its findings into a 6,000-page report. When asked about when the classified findings would make their way into the public, Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said that the document must first go to the Obama administration for review and comment before declassification could be considered.
CIA director John Brennan is expected to present his agency’s review of the document — itself classified — to Feinstein and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) in a closed meeting on Thursday. According to reporting from the Washington Post, however, it doesn’t seem like the visit will be a positive one. Instead, the CIA intends to rebut the central claim of the Senate report: that the harsh methods used against detainees failed to yield significant results.
The Post quotes one former high-ranking intelligence official as saying that “anyone who was around and involved in the program knows that’s not right.” That same employee then said, “I don’t know how they could fail to say that actually it was effective, and you can separate that from whether you approve of it or not.” The CIA’s report reaches similar conculsions, citing problems with the Senate panel’s methodology and supposed errors in the research done.
This conclusion is a backtracking for Brennan, who only just recent faced questions about the efficacy of the Agency’s torture program when seeking confirmation for his current job. “There clearly were a number of things, many things, that I read in that report that were very concerning and disturbing to me,” Brennan said during his confirmation hearings in February. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) asked Brennan directly whether the program yielded the sort of intelligence provided the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden as many former Bush administration members have claimed over the years. Brennan, who was Deputy Executive Director of the CIA at the time of the program’s running, said that it did no such thing.
Brennan’s defense of the Agency also lends itself to a possible clash within the administration over the report. Vice President Biden has gone on record supporting the Senate’s report and calling for its declassification. “I think the only way you excise the demons is you acknowledge, you acknowledge exactly what happened straightforward,” Biden said in April, comparing the report to the Nuremburg trials after World War II. The vice president was joined in his vocal support by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), himself an ardent advocate for the report’s release.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the CIA when investigating itself found that it commited no wrong-doing. Outside groups, however, have reached the exact opposite conclusion. In March, a bipartisan group determined that the United States did, in fact, utilize torture to gain information from detainees in the years after 9/11. And experts for years have known that torture produces information that is far inferior to that gathered through other methods.