CIA officers subjected some terrorism suspects the agency held after the Sept. 11 attacks to interrogation methods that were not approved by either the Justice Department or their own headquarters and illegally detained 26 of the 119 in CIA custody, the Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded in its still-secret report, McClatchy has learned.
The spy agency program’s reliance on brutal techniques – much more abusive than previously known – and its failure to gather valuable information from the detainees harmed the United States’ credibility, according to the committee’s findings in its scathing 6,300-page report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention program.
The agency also repeatedly misled the Justice Department while stymieing Congress’ and the White House’s efforts to oversee the secret and now-defunct program, McClatchy has learned.
In all, the committee came to 20 conclusions about the CIA’s harsh interrogation tactics after spending six years and $40 million evaluating the controversial program, which began during the Bush administration.
The committee voted 11-3 Thursday to declassify an executive summary and conclusions. The findings and summary now will go to the White House and CIA for eventual public release.
Despite the bipartisan vote, Republicans and Democrats were at odds over the report’s value.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who chairs the committee, maintained that the eventual release of the summary and findings will show “that this nation admits its errors, as painful as they may be, and seeks to learn from them.”
She called the findings shocking, adding: “The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation. It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen. This is not what Americans do.”
The report “certainly depicts the program as much, much worse than generally thought,” said Alberto Mora, a former Navy general counsel and an early critic of the Bush administration program. “Oh my gosh, it’s a devastating critique.”
The finding that 26 detainees were held without legal authorization and the confirmation that the CIA in some cases went beyond the techniques approved by the Justice Department might fuel legal challenges.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the committee’s top Republican, who said he’d voted to declassify, was highly critical of the report.
He told McClatchy it’s “a waste of time,” saying, “There is absolutely concrete evidence that has been gleaned from the individuals who have been interrogated in this program that led not only to (Osama) bin Laden’s takedown but to the interruption and disruption of other terrorist plots over the years.”
The Senate panel concluded the techniques were ineffective.
Most of the report and the underlying CIA documents might remain secret. White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama “would expect that the actions that are necessary to declassify a document like that be conducted in all due haste, and I think he would make that clear to the agencies involved in that effort and the individuals involved in that effort.”
Carney said he hadn’t talked with the president about whether he thought that releasing the report would have a positive effect on U.S. relations with countries that had been critical of the Guantanamo detention center and CIA interrogation.
The CIA has pledged to cooperate.
It nonetheless masked deep divisions between Democratic and Republican committee members. While both wanted the material declassified, they were at odds over its worth. The CIA has rejected some of the findings and has written a still-secret rebuttal.
Committee Republicans were furious over the report.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who said he’d voted to declassify, said he was “extremely disappointed in the flawed and biased results” of the report.
Democrats vigorously defended the findings.
“This report shows that multiple levels of government were misled about the effectiveness of these techniques,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.
The question remained how much of the report would be divulged because the White House and the CIA might decide to release or withhold different portions. It’s also unclear how long the final decision would take, with some experts predicting months.
In March, McClatchy reported that the CIA Inspector General’s Office had asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations that the CIA had monitored the committee staff’s work.