For months now, we've been writing about how the Senate Intelligence Committee is sitting on
an apparently devastating 6,300 page report, which cost taxpayers $40 million, looking into the CIA's torture program. As has recently been in the news, this still-classified report has created quite the controversy, as the CIA has been doing everything it can to block its release
, including spying on Senate staffers
and sending what appear to be trumped up charges against the staffers to the DOJ for investigation.
Every week there are rumors that Senator Dianne Feinstein is on the verge of really pushing to declassify the report, but it never seems to happen. Still, details from the report keep slipping out, including the latest from CBS which shows how all the claims of how the CIA's torture program was instrumental in finding Osama bin Laden are simply untrue
and the torture program had little to do with it. On top of that, the Washington Post has more on how the CIA blatantly and explicitly misled Congress and the public
about the torture program. Did you see that movie Zero Dark Thirty
, which purported to show how torture helped find bin Laden? That was nothing more than CIA propaganda via Hollywood to try to press that story forward. The reality is something different. And something that is quite ugly for Americans: we used torture programs, which almost certainly violated the Geneva Conventions, for basically no benefit at all.
Every "example" used by defenders of the CIA to defend the torture program is apparently debunked in the report. Khalid-Sheik Mohammed -- the 9/11 mastermind who was tortured 183 times and eventually "gave up" the name of the courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, who eventually led to bin Laden? Turns out that he only named him well after all those waterboardings, and never revealed al-Kuwaiti's significance in any meaningful way. Other examples show that the torture program just lead various Al Qaeda officials to repeat what the CIA already knew.
Essentially, they argued, Mohammed, al-Libi and others subjected to harsh treatment confirmed only what investigators already knew about the courier. And when they denied the courier's significance or provided misleading information, investigators would only have considered that significant if they already presumed the courier's importance.
As for the guy who actually revealed the importance of al-Kuwaiti? Yes, he was tortured too, because, man, the CIA really appears to have a taste for torturing people. But he revealed the important information the day before he was tortured
Meanwhile, the Washington Post details how the report shows that the CIA flat out lied about all of this to pretty much everyone:
“The CIA described [its program] repeatedly both to the Department of Justice and eventually to Congress as getting unique, otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives,” said one U.S. official briefed on the report. “Was that actually true? The answer is no.”
One of the key findings was that most of the useful intelligence came via FBI questioning (without torture) prior to the CIA getting their hands on various prisoners who they then tortured. But, in order to continue the torture program, CIA officials took the information that the FBI got via standard questioning and claimed they got it via the torture efforts
One official said that almost all of the critical threat-related information from Zubaida was obtained during the period when he was questioned by [FBI agent Ali] Soufan at a hospital in Pakistan, well before he was interrogated by the CIA and waterboarded 83 times.
Information obtained by Soufan, however, was passed up through the ranks of the U.S. intelligence community, the Justice Department and Congress as though it were part of what CIA interrogators had obtained, according to the committee report.
“The CIA conflated what was gotten when, which led them to misrepresent the effectiveness of the program,” said a second U.S. official who reviewed the report. The official described the persistence of such misstatements as among “the most damaging” of the committee’s conclusions.
Once again, it appears that the CIA's stonewalling against the release of this report is almost certainly linked to the fact that it's effectively going to portray the CIA as a bunch of torture-hungry war criminals, who still refuse to admit that this morally repugnant program was useless -- and who lied about it to Congress, the DOJ and the American public in order to keep on torturing people. Of course, some of us are old enough that we still remember when the US used to be against torture, in part because of all the years of evidence proving that it was useless in actually getting information out of people. One would have hoped that the US government, and the CIA in particular, didn't need to recreate "experiments" by committing war crimes to reprove what was already known about the effectiveness of torture.