Americans have known for years both the broad outlines and some of the disgusting details of the George W. Bush administration’s policy of subjecting suspected terrorists to torture, humiliation and imprisonment at “black sites” in foreign countries.
But they have been denied a comprehensive accounting of how the United States decided after the 9/11 attacks to travel to what then-Vice President Dick Cheney called “the dark side.”
That would change if the Senate Intelligence Committee released to the public a 6,000-page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation policies that it approved Dec. 13. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the committee chair, says the report includes “details of each detainee in CIA custody, the conditions under which they were detained, how they were interrogated, the intelligence they actually provided and the accuracy — or inaccuracy — of CIA descriptions about the program to the White House, Department of Justice, Congress and others.”
Release of the intelligence committee report won’t end the debate about either the morality or the efficacy of the CIA’s interrogation policy — a debate that often follows party lines.
Unfortunately, the report will remain classified while the committee solicits comments — and presumably suggested redactions — from the Obama administration. Only one Republican on the committee, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, voted to approve the report. The ranking Republican, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, said it contained “significant errors, omissions, assumptions and ambiguities — as well as a lot of cherry-picking.”
But the report, which is based on a study of more than 6 million pages of CIA and other records, represents the most ambitious attempt yet to explain why and how this country lost its moral bearings in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. The American people have a right to see it.