The Senate Is Sitting On A Devastating Report About How The CIA Avoided Oversight Of Unnecessary Torture Program

from the congressional-oversight! dept

So much attention concerning the intelligence community lately has been focused on the NSA. There has been a bit of looking at the FBI as well, but for the most part the CIA has been left untouched — even though when the Washington Post released details of the US’s black budget (thanks to Ed Snowden), it surprised many people to discover that the CIA still has a significantly larger budget than the NSA.

Late last week, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer had a fantastic article revealing some details of a still-classified report put together by the Senate Intelligence Committee which apparently rips the CIA to shreds over its torture program, both in how ineffective the program was, but also in how the CIA tried to avoid any real oversight from Congress.

At its core is a bitter disagreement over an apparently devastating, and still secret, report by the Senate Intelligence Committee documenting in detail how the C.I.A.’s brutalization of terror suspects during the Bush years was unnecessary, ineffective, and deceptively sold to Congress, the White House, the Justice Department, and the public. The report threatens to definitively refute former C.I.A. personnel who have defended the program’s integrity. But so far, to the consternation of several members of the Intelligence Committee, the Obama Administration, like Bush’s before it, is keeping the damning details from public view.

The CIA, apparently, has been “defiant and defensive” in response to the massive report (over 6,000 pages, and which apparently cost $40 million to produce). CIA boss John Brennan has apparently been especially aggressive in trying to challenge the report and in blocking it from being declassified.

As Mayer notes, many of the new details came out due to Senator Mark Udall (who, for years, has been a leader in trying to stop the NSA’s bad behavior) first blocking the confirmation of Stephen Preston to become General Counsel of the Defense Department (a position formerly held by Jeh Johnson, who was just nominated to run Homeland Security). Preston, prior to this, had been General Counsel for the CIA. Udall used the opportunity to quiz Preston about both the Intelligence Committee’s report and the CIA’s angry rebuttal, noting that if Preston stood by the rebuttal, he would be very uncomfortable about confirming him for the Pentagon job.

Preston, in his response, appears to distance himself from the CIA’s position, agreeing with some of the findings in the Senate report. In particular, he admits that the CIA “fell well short” of keeping Congress informed and allowing Congress to have oversight over the CIA’s torture program.

In fact, Preston admits outright that, contrary to the C.I.A.’s insistence that it did not actively impede congressional oversight of its detention and interrogation program, “briefings to the Committees included inaccurate information related to aspects of the program of express interest to Members.”

The contention that the C.I.A. provided inaccurate information to the congressional oversight committees is apparently extensively documented by the report. Udall notes that the report contains a two-hundred-ninety-eight-page section on “C.I.A. Representations on the C.I.A. Interrogation Program and the Effectiveness of the C.I.A.’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques to Congress.”

Furthermore, the report apparently notes that rather than actually briefing the entire Intelligence Committee on what it was doing, the CIA only briefed the chairman and vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. In other words, beyond providing enough misleading information to fill a large book, the CIA also made sure that the Senate Intelligence Committee members (outside of the two top members) weren’t even informed of the details of what they did.

There’s a lot more in the Mayer piece, going through many of the key revelations that can be parsed out from both Udall’s questions and Preston’s answers, but it’s apparent that (1) the CIA had very little real oversight from Congress concerning its torture program, (2) the Senate Intelligence Committee is pissed off about this, and (3) there’s a massive report detailing all of this that will eventually see the light of day. It does sound like many on the Senate Intelligence Committee — including (much to my surprise) Dianne Feinstein — are fighting to have the report released (I’m sure with many redactions). Udall is pushing strongly for such a declassification:

“My views of the C.I.A.’s response remain unchanged,” Udall wrote. “As I told John Brennan during his confirmation hearing, acknowledging the flaws of the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program is essential for the C.I.A.’s long-term institutional integrity—as well as for the legitimacy of ongoing sensitive programs. At this point, I do not believe the C.I.A. has sufficiently acknowledged the flaws that the committee has meticulously detailed with thirty-five-thousand footnotes in six-thousand-three-hundred pages.”

Udall also reiterated his demand to “declassify as much of the committee’s report as possible.” He added, “Without the right amount of sunshine, some of the problems documented in the study—to include problems that I believe still exist today—will remain uncorrected. The American people have the right to know what the government has done on their behalf.”

Between the lack of any real oversight of the NSA and now, it appears, the CIA as well, once again we’re left wondering how the administration can pretend that these agencies are actually under control and not prone to abuse.

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Comments on “The Senate Is Sitting On A Devastating Report About How The CIA Avoided Oversight Of Unnecessary Torture Program”

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23 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

although as much information as possible needs to be released, rather than as much as the CIA etc feel they HAVE to release, surely the real, main questions that need answering are who in hell ordered any torturing to be carried out and how far did it go? who actually did the torturing? did deaths/permanent injuries/permanent disfigurations result from the torturing?
these questions need to be answered as quick as possible and compensation paid to the families/people affected.
how can any nation, any democratic government that has supposedly defended truth and freedom since it’s inception, behave like this? treat people like this? and please dont use ‘protection from terrorism’ as the excuse!!

Brazenly Anonymous says:

Re: Re:

Focusing solely on the past prevents us from moving forward. Putting these programs to an end and generating true transparency is not only crucial to ensuring that no further harm is done, but also greatly enhances the ability to provide due levels of compensation and retribution.

The alternative is the blame game, a scapegoat, and business as usual, with the loudest complainers getting a “shut up” bribe along with substantial threats should they not accept.

Think carefully about where what you are advocating will take us.

TasMot (profile) says:

The people at the CIA should be ashamed

“The American Way” as outlined in the Constitution should be an all pervasive idea guiding everything that is done in the name of the American people. The fact that the NSA, FBI, CIA, DHS, and all the rest of those agencies need to hide what they are doing from the light of day should be a strong suggestion that IT IS WRONG. If the people is the US should not know what is going on in their name, then it probably should not be going on. Yes, bad things happen in life. They (all of them), have not been able to prevent anything. So far, all they seem to have accomplished is to trample over the rights granted in the Constitution and make the rest of the world hate the US. If they are so ashamed of what they are doing, then it should stop.

Anonymous Coward says:

Again you have all the evidence you need for why the American public has so little faith in politicians and congress. It doesn’t seem that either actually wants to reign in all these abuses with the exception of a hand full at best.

What we are again reassured of, is that if you give any sort of authority to these groups they will abuse it; often. In both the CIA and the NSA we are seeing more and more they both took short cuts around meaningful oversight. Then they worked to actively block who they wished not knowing about it, like the public and new organizations.

As this stuff goes on, I am starting to see a picture of the government I don’t much care for. It’s certainly not is proclaimed during all those campaign speeches. Nor is the picture in particular supporting those that took oaths to defend their country against those foreign and domestic. It begins to look more like defend those of our group and all outsiders are enemies.

Anonymous Coward says:

As a victim of one of these programs, people died. Children from Iowa died. My friend was killed for being a witness. My cousin died. Aaron Swartz was hanged on my birthday and they have said the same fate awaits me. You are being lied to every day in the news. EVERY DAY. Our gov is run by psychopaths and I can only hope when the day comes they are really held to account.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Because of the length of this particular report, it would be extraordinarily burdensome for government officials to carry it if it were printed on traditional paper.

So, to reduce this burden and to make sure it could be read more easily, it was printed on a new material developed by NASA engineers.

Unfortunately, this new material was not only expensive, but requires an even more expensive process to print the equally expensive ink onto the pages.

Anonymous Coward says:

The CIA's torture makes us less safe

The US’s decision to torture prisoners and terrorists makes us less safe.

If our troops are captured in future wars now, foreign nations will be much more likely to torture them, because they’ll know we’re torturing their own troops.

Also, torture is a highly ineffective way to get truthful and reliable information from a prisoner or terrorist. Torture often produces false confessions of whatever the prisoner thinks the torturer wants to hear, rather than the truth.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

It's now a trend.

This seems to be a disturbing pattern emerging since the Bush administration era, possibly before: we create or repurpose agencies and unconcern ourselves with oversight until surprise! They’re doing something really bad.

And then all three branches try to hide the really bad.

Once it gets out, all three branches try to justify the really bad.

And by then we have mountains of footage of our representatives telling us and the world how necessary the really bad is to the interests of national security and fighting terrorism.

And that reenforces the position that we, the United States, really are the bad-guys. The Empire. The Sith. The Deatheaters. The Legion of Super-villains. COBRA. VENOM. The Guild of Calamitous Intent. The Super Adventure Club…

The Inquisition. Civil Protection. The Thought Police. That’s us.

It reinforces the notion that US doesn’t have and never had the moral high ground that we allegedly did during the cold war (because the Soviet Union was at least worse).

Ill-behaved policies enacted by the United States only validate the grievances of our enemies without giving us any worthwhile advantage.


As of this posting I have not received a US National Security Letter or any classified gag order from an agent of the United States
Encrypted with Morbius-Cochrane Perfect Steganographic Codec 1.2.001
Monday, October 21, 2013 11:13:58 AM
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GEMont (profile) says:

Prone to abuse?

I realize its very very difficult for most people to grasp the simple fact that they are being lied to, robbed and used as cannon fodder by the “trusted” institutions they hold most dear. That is perfectly normal.

But all that is necessary to understand what is actually taking place in the real world, is to realize that these reported “abuses of power” by various federal agencies are not abuses at all, but are in fact, the actual intended functions of the these agencies.

They simply believed, as do all criminals, that they would never get caught.

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