The Senate Committee on Intelligence voted Thursday to release a summary of its secret investigative report into the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques that terrorism critics condemned as torture during the years immediately following 9/11.
A 480-plus page executive summary of the report, along with 20 conclusions about the CIA’s use of detention and interrogation during the George W. Bush administration, will now be sent to the Obama White House — where officials may still redact key portions before it is released to the public in the weeks ahead.
The vast majority of the report, which is believed to total more than 6,300 pages produced during a 5-year probe that cost an estimated $40 million, is expected to remain classified for the foreseeable future.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, hailed Thursday’s 11-3 committee vote. “The release of this summary and conclusions in the near future shows that this nation admits its errors, as painful as they may be, and seeks to learn from them,” she told reporters.
Republicans had years ago withdrawn themselves from the committee’s five-year probe of the CIA’s activities, and they were split among themselves during Thursday’s vote.
Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, James E. Risch of Idaho and Daniel Coats of Indiana opposed making the report public. While several other Republicans raised objections, including ranking Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, they voted anyway to release the report.
Congressional aides and outside experts familiar with the report say it is highly critical of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA, and concludes among other things that such practices provided no key evidence in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to The Associated Press. The CIA has previously disputed that claim.
The Intelligence Committee’s probe has been a source of unprecedented friction between Democrats and the agency — tension that burst into the open last month when Mrs. Feinstein bitingly accusing the agency of violating Constitutional separation-of-powers standards by hacking computers of Senate staffers conducting the investigation.
CIA Director John O. Brennan flatly denied the claim. But media reports also indicated the CIA had accused the Senate staffers of illegally acquiring classified documents from the agency. The dispute is now playing out behind the scenes at the Justice Department.
The CIA appeared to embrace a conciliatory posture in response to the Intelligence Committee’s vote Thursday, saying that if the committee submits sections of its report “for classification review, the CIA will carry out the review expeditiously.”
In a statement, a CIA spokeswoman said that the agency has not been provided a final version of the report, but that a review of a 2012 version “found several areas in which the CIA and [the Intelligence Committee] agreed, and several other areas in which we disagreed.”
“The CIA has acknowledged and learned from [the interrogation program’s] shortcomings and has taken corrective measures to prevent such mistakes from happening again,” said the spokeswoman. “At the same time, we owe it to the men and women directed to carry out this program to try and ensure that any historical account of it is accurate.”
Mr. Chambliss told reporters on Thursday that he had voted in favor of releasing a summary of the report because he wanted to get the whole episode “behind us.”
“I was never in favor of this report being done,” Mr. Chambliss said. “I think it was a waste of time. ... “However, the general public has the right to now know what was done and what’s in the report.”
Mrs. Feinstein’s push for the release got a boost Wednesday, when Maine’s two senators — Republican Susan Collins and Independent Angus King — released a joint statement asserting the American public should be allowed to “reach their own conclusions” about the CIA’s past detention and interrogation activities.
Mrs. Feinstein said the purpose of the Senate investigation “was to uncover the facts behind this secret program, and the results were shocking.”
“The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation,” she said. “It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen. This is not what Americans do.”
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