Senator Feinstein Asks President Obama To Declassify Senate's CIA Torture Report

from the last-chance dept

Could President Obama actually declassify and release the full 6,800 page report on the massive failures of the CIA’s torture program from a decade ago? While it seems unlikely, Senator Dianne Feinstein is urging the President to release the document, fearing that the massive report may disappear into the memory hole soon.

Some background: While Feinstein has been historically awful on basically anything having to do with reining in the US intelligence community, the one area that really seemed to get her attention and raise concerns was the CIA’s torture regime. She assigned Senate Intelligence Committee staffers to work on a massive and detailed report on the CIA’s torture program after it came out that a key official involved in the program had deliberately deleted videotape evidence about the program. The research and writing of the report went on for years and cost millions of dollars, and then resulted in another big fight over releasing a heavily redacted version of just the executive summary of the report (not to mention that the CIA also broke into the staffers’ computers after it realized it had accidentally given the staffers a really damning document). The fight over releasing the paper was really, really ridiculous.

There were fights over what ridiculous things to redact, and then the White House put on a full court press against releasing the document, insisting that publicly releasing even a heavily redacted executive summary would inspire terrorist attacks. Even after an agreement was reached on the redactions, John Kerry still tried to block the release, again warning of potential attacks in response.

Eventually the heavily redacted executive summary was released, revealing what many had suspected: the CIA’s torture program was a complete waste, providing nothing in terms of valuable intelligence, and also involved the CIA lying to Congress. Since then, though, there have been ongoing battles over the report. Also revealed: what a bunch of bullshit the claims were that the release of the report would inspire new attacks. It’s been two years and there’s no evidence the report inspired any hatred beyond what was already present.

While Feinstein made sure copies of the full report were delivered to various parts of the executive branch, insisting that the report should be read so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past, most of them claim they never read it and also that there was nothing to learn from it. Then, after Senator Richard Burr took over the Senate Intelligence Committee he began to demand that the various copies of the report all be returned so they could be completely destroyed, erasing all of that evidence and reporting on the CIA’s torture program. The CIA claims it “accidentally” deleted one of its own copies.

The ACLU tried to FOIA the full document but was rejected… and the courts refused to force the government to release the document.

There’s every indication that a President Trump would have zero interest in releasing such a report, and probably would support the destruction of the remaining copies. And, because of that, it appears that Senator Feinstein is calling on the President to declassify the whole thing.

I think people need to see the full facts of the report. I believe they stand on their own. And I think it’s very important, particularly since there is discussion or talk or allegations about – well, we’re going to resume waterboarding, and, yes, we can torture people.

As the report at NPR notes, during the campaign, Trump eagerly endorsed bringing back the torture program, specifically calling out waterboarding and suggesting going even further than that.

Once again, here’s an opportunity for President Obama to actually do something that would make a powerful statement before handing over the White House. Not only would it help provide tremendous transparency into a shameful episode in our very recent history — a shameful episode that is at great risk of being repeated — it would also prevent the report from being totally destroyed. As the NPR piece notes, Senator Burr is still fighting to get back the document to destroy it. That means there’s a very good chance that if President Obama doesn’t get the full torture report declassified, it will disappear forever. Of course, given the White House’s (ridiculous) attempts to block the release of the exec summary, combined with Obama’s terrible track record in letting the intelligence community get away with all sorts of stuff, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Senator Feinstein Asks President Obama To Declassify Senate's CIA Torture Report”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
That One Guy (profile) says:


Obama won’t, ever, release or declassify the thing, as I imagine he wants to pretend that it never happened so it doesn’t add another stain to his already tainted legacy(because admitting that torture happened and he did nothing about it is so much worse than admitting it happened and endorsing it /s).

Feinstein on the other hand… If she has access to the report she could potentially release it herself, classification be damned. It would destroy her career to be sure, but if she really feels it’s that important it would make a powerful statement on her part, to the point that I might actually garner some respect for her, limited as it may be, for standing up for what’s right at least once in her life.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why not release it?

What’s the big issue with keeping this report secret?

Approximately half of all Americans support the use of torture.

Our president-elect has no problem with it.

Trump, Feb. 17: Torture works. OK, folks? You know, I have these guys—”Torture doesn’t work!”—believe me, it works. And waterboarding is your minor form. Some people say it’s not actually torture. Let’s assume it is. But they asked me the question: What do you think of waterboarding? Absolutely fine. But we should go much stronger than waterboarding.

If Americans don’t care about publicly advocating for torture, either via their own opinions, or their elected leaders, what is the point of keeping this report under wraps?

Anonymous Coward says:

(?) Couldn't she do it herself...?

Wasn’t there a Colorado Senator (Oh yea, Mark Udall) on his way out that people were pushing to read this entire document into the congressional record since he was a lame duck and wouldn’t suffer as bad politically?

Couldn’t Sen. Feinstein do the same thing? Maybe she ultimately would since she cares about it strongly, but is just hoping Obama covers her so she doesn’t have to release ‘classified’ info unilaterally–and get lambasted.

Dave Cortright (profile) says:

Re: (?) Couldn't she do it herself...?

Exactly my thought.

“Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution establishes an absolute free-speech right for members of Congress on the floor or in committee, even if they are disclosing classified material. It states that ‘for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.'”

gb (profile) says:

Open your skeleton closet, Feinstein

Personally, most Americans don’t CARE about torturing 3rd world barbarians, if it keeps civilized people safe. Go ahead, open them up. If you think it’s going to bring people to your side, you’re wrong. IMO, terrorists should not be caught alive anyway. Kill them on sight. Just like rabid animals.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...