- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The CIA misled Congress and the White House about the scope and effectiveness of the agency’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program after 9/11, and the harsh treatment of terrorism suspects produced no key evidence in the hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to a long-awaited report by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee released Tuesday.

The document, culminating a yearslong battle between the CIA and lawmakers who investigated the program presents the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the agency’s use of interrogation techniques that human rights groups have described as torture at “black sites” in Europe and Asia.

While an actual 6,000-page report produced by the Intelligence Committee remains classified, the roughly 500-page executive summary released Tuesday concludes outright that “the CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.”

The agency told the White House, as well as the CIA Office of Inspector General and Congress, “that the best measure of effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was examples of specific terrorist plots ‘thwarted’ and specific terrorists captured as a result of the use of the techniques,” states the executive summary, which adds that a subsequent investigation by Democrats proved such claims to be wrong.

“The Committee reviewed 20 of the most frequent and prominent examples of purported counterterrorism successes that the CIA has attributed to the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques, and found them to be wrong in fundamental respects,” the document states. “In some cases, there was no relationship between the cited counterterrorism success and any information provided by detainees during or after the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.”

The executive summary also says that terror suspects subjected to the techniques regularly “provided fabricated information on critical intelligence issues, including the terrorist threats which the CIA identified as its highest priorities.”

The CIA, which fiercely resisted the summary’s release to the public, pushed back Tuesday against the report’s findings.

“Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom [enhanced interrogation techniques] were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives,” CIA Director John Brennan said in a statement Tuesday morning. “The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al Qaeda and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day.”

Separately, an official response to the Intelligence Committee produced by the CIA last year but circulated to reporters Tuesday said the report’s claim that the agency misrepresented its activities to Congress and the White House “simply does not comport with the record.”

“To accomplish this, there would have had to have been a years-long long conspiracy among CIA leaders at all levels, supported by a large number of analysts and other line officers,” the CIA response states. “This conspiracy would have had to include three former CIA Directors, including one who lead the Agency after the program had largely wound down.”

Tuesday’s release comes in the waning days of Democratic Party control in the Senate. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the Intelligence Committee and oversaw the report’s production has pushed fiercely for the declassification — a battle that has resulted in heated back-and-forth between the White House, the CIA and Congress.

The document’s main focus is on the controversial CIA program created during the early years of the George W. Bush administration.

Mr. Bush has said he hasn’t read report but he defends the actions taken by the CIA. The former president has also pushed back against the notion that his administration was kept in the dark about the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program.

President Obama said Tuesday the report details “a troubling program” that harmed America’s reputation, reasons that he ended the practices soon after taking office.

In a statement before Mrs. Feinstein released the report, Mr. Obama said the probe “reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests.”

Mr. Obama in 2009 banned the use of such “enhanced interrogation techniques” as waterboarding — a process that involves pouring water over a cloth covering the nose and mouth of a detainee to create the sensation of drowning.

The White House has said Mr. Obama supported making the Intelligence Committee’s report public. But administration officials have also expressed wariness it may trigger anti-American rioting.

Thousands of U.S. Marines were placed on a heightened state of alert at U.S. embassies and bases across the globe as hype mounted during recent days over the document’s release.

Some Republicans, including Sen. John McCain — himself a victim of torture during the Vietnam War — have supported the report’s release. But others have stood aggressively against it.

Rep. Mike Rogers, the outgoing chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has warned it will be used as a propaganda tool by terrorist groups to incite anti-American unrest.

Democrats have argued that the risks are worth it. Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, told CBS in recent days that the document’s release is important to the democratic process.

“It exposes what the world already knows, and that is that the United States engaged in torture,” she said.

Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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