It has been more than a year since the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a voluminous report on the detention and interrogation practices of the George W. Bush administration.
But the 6,000-page document remains under wraps, even as defenders of “enhanced interrogation” techniques such as waterboarding continue to contend that they produced valuable intelligence, an assertion the study reportedly rejects.
President Obama should move promptly to ensure that the public can scrutinize both the report and the CIA’s response to it.
Thanks to disclosures in the news media, congressional investigations and a report by the CIA’s inspector general, many disgusting details of the Bush administration’s treatment of suspected terrorists are already known, from the imprisonment of suspects at “black sites” abroad to the repeated waterboarding of suspected al-Qaida operatives Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah.
The public also has seen the memos by Bush administration lawyers that used contorted reasoning to rationalize torture.
But the Intelligence Committee report would offer a comprehensive overview of what happened when, in the words of former Vice President Dick Cheney, the United States traveled to “the dark side” in an attempt to prevent another 9/11.
The report also would shed light on whether waterboarding and other inhumane tactics were effective in preventing future plots or locating the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, a debate that continues to this day (not that torture would be justified even if it were effective).
The Intelligence Committee report was approved on a mostly party-line vote, and the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, said it contains “significant errors, omissions, assumptions and ambiguities — as well as a lot of cherry-picking.”
The CIA has submitted a response to the report that, according to the agency, “detailed significant errors in the study.”
But it’s impossible for the public to evaluate the report (or the attempts to refute it) if it is not released.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, says the administration is willing to have a part of the report made public and that the panel will vote soon on releasing an executive summary along with findings, conclusions and the CIA’s comments.
The committee should release the whole report, omitting only details that threaten the exposure of sources and methods, not information that would simply be embarrassing.
President Obama, who prides himself on prohibiting waterboarding and other forms of torture, should make it clear that this is his preference as well, whatever the CIA says.
This editorial was originally published in the Los Angeles Times.