WASHINGTON – The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to make public a long-awaited report that concludes that the CIA’s use of brutal interrogation measures did not produce valuable intelligence and that the agency repeatedly misled government officials about the severity and success of the program.
The decision, opposed by three Republicans on the panel, means that the findings will be sent to the White House and the CIA, putting the agency in the awkward position of having to declassify a document that delivers a scathing verdict on one of the most controversial periods in its history.
The purpose of this review was to uncover the facts behind this secret program, and the results were shocking, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the committee’s chairman, said in a statement Thursday.
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.
U.S. officials said it could be months before the executive summary of the panel’s inquiry is released to the public. But Thursday’s vote marked the formal end of a four-year Senate investigation of the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh tactics against terrorism suspects in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
President Barack Obama has signaled his support for the public release of the findings and an executive summary, a 481-page section at the front of a classified report that in its complete form runs to more than 6,200 pages and includes detailed accounts of the CIA’s treatment of dozens of detainees.
The report’s arrival at agency headquarters creates a significant dilemma for CIA Director John Brennan, who must determine how far to go in defending the agency without further damaging his relationship with Congress.
Any suspense over the committee vote ended this week, when Maine’s two senators on the intelligence panel – Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King – signaled that they would side with the Democrats and vote in favor of declassification.
In an interview, King said the document convinced him that what the CIA had done was torture.
I don’t have any doubts on that fact, he said. It’s a pretty hard read. It’s very disappointing.
The report, based on a review of millions of internal CIA records, found scant evidence that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques generated meaningful intelligence.
It accuses agency officials of overstating the significance of alleged terrorist plots and prisoners, and exaggerating the effectiveness of the program by claiming credit for information that detainees had surrendered before they were subjected to duress.
For years, the agency made inaccurate statements to the president, the National Security Council and Congress, King said.
That’s one of the most disturbing parts of this – the institutional failure, he said.
At least six Republicans on the committee were expected to submit dissenting views that raised objections to its findings and methodology.
Ranking Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia said he thought the program provided valuable intelligence and called the committee’s inquiry a waste of time.
Still, he said, the public has a right to see the summary and minority views. We need to get this behind us, he said.
The report was assembled entirely by Democrats. Republicans abandoned the investigation shortly after it began in 2009, citing concerns that it would be shaped by political considerations as well as plans not to interview CIA officials who were being scrutinized.
The agency submitted a long response last year to an earlier draft of the Senate report that officials said identified numerous errors and contested many of the committee’s conclusions. Current and former CIA officials said the agency is weighing whether to update that response and release it to the public with the Senate report.
A former CIA official said there is an expectation among many inside the agency that Brennan will issue a competing assessment that critiques the committee’s findings.
There are a lot of people who worked for this program for years in good faith who still believe that it was effective, the former official said.