Intelligence work is all about secrets: finding the other side’s, protecting your own.
Democracy requires transparency. A people can’t govern itself without some idea of what is going on.
The challenge of conducting intelligence operations in a democracy is constantly resetting the balance between keeping secrets and informing the public. There have to be compromises at times, but ultimately the public needs to know the truth.
We are at such a time when it comes to the CIA interrogations during the Bush administration that relied on torture to extract secrets from terror suspects.
This program is the subject of what has been described as a 6,000-page classified report in the hands of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It is said to exhaustively detail the techniques used and the results produced and should now be part of the public record.
The Intelligence Committee, which includes Maine’s Sen. Olympia Snowe, should release the report and let the American people know, finally, what was done in the name of their security and whether it was worth it.
It’s important that this report comes out and becomes part of the historical record. Otherwise, partial versions and misleading accounts will influence future policy makers.
Earlier this year, former CIA Deputy Director of Operations Jose Rodriguez told Time magazine that information produced by torturing a captive was instrumental in finding and killing Osama bin Laden.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., immediately issued a rebuttal, stating that the information that led to bin Laden’s death did not come from CIA detainees who had been tortured. Feinstein had seen the report, and so should the rest of us.
There’s plenty about torture that is not a secret. For one, it’s illegal. For another, most experts consider it ineffective. And a country’s willingness to use torture damages its reputation in the world and in history.
Now we should find out finally what was done in the war on terror and what was its result. Snowe and the other members of the committee should accept the report and submit it to the painstaking process of declassifying it for public consumption.
These secrets have been kept too long already.