The Only Way We'll Really Learn About The CIA's Torture Program Is If Someone Leaks The Report

from the it'll-happen-eventually dept

Last week, we noted that the Senate Intelligence Committee had voted to declassify a small part of its $40 million, 6,300-page report that apparently details how the CIA's torture program exceeded granted authorities, was totally useless in gathering intelligence, and resulted in the CIA lying to Congress. Of course, even with the declassification vote, it's only been agreed to declassify the 480-page executive summary and major findings, leaving the vast majority of the paper in secret. Furthermore, that executive summary is now going to go through months of an intensive "declassification process," which appears to involve letting the CIA itself take giant black markers to redact all the bits it doesn't like.

As we mentioned last week, VP Joe Biden himself had argued for releasing the document by highlighting the importance of being open and admitting to the horrific mistakes that were made:
“I think the only way you excise the demons is you acknowledge, you acknowledge exactly what happened straightforward,” Biden said. “The single best thing that ever happened to Germany were the war crimes tribunals, because it forced Germany to come to its milk about what in fact has happened.”
Except that's not what's happening. We're not going to get true acknowledgement of what happened in a straightforward way. We're not going to have real openness about it. We're going to have a tiny portion of a report that is redacted by the very organization accused of potential crimes against humanity and then covering it up. And that's why folks like Trevor Timm are arguing that if we're ever going to truly confront what our own nation did, someone needs to leak the entire report. Yes, there have been a variety of leaks about what's in the report to the press, but without the full story we can't, as Biden himself has said, "acknowledge exactly what happened straightforward."
It's possible the only way the public will ever get to see the entire landmark report is the same way we've learned everything we know about it: if someone leaks it.

Leaks have been critical to the public knowledge of Bush-era torture since the first hints of Abu Ghraib, and as longtime torture investigator Katherine Hawkins noted, "The Senate report would likely never have existed ... if it were not for previous investigations by journalists and non-governmental organizations."
Of course, leaking such a report would likely then lead to yet another round of President Obama's war on whistleblowers, in which administration officials go around reminding everyone that leaks are akin to terrorism, and leakers get charged under the Espionage Act, which was designed to be used against spies selling us out to foreign governments, not whistleblowers informing the public.

Filed Under: cia, journalism, leaks, senate, senate intelligence committee, torture


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  1. identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, 7 Apr 2014 @ 3:56pm

    Why the Pentagon should demand the release of the CIA torture report

    Not only is it horrific to contemplate that Americans in positions of authority authorized and/or committed crimes against humanity and tortured helpless human beings to death, but this has serious negative repercussions for American troops in the field.

    First, American troops are sporadically engaged in combat with soldiers from other countries -- whether in a declared or undeclared war, or a so-called "police action", or something else. One of the things that has often brought those combat situations to a peaceful end is the surrender of those fighting against the Americans. And one of the reasons those surrenders occured is that Americans could and would promise those surrendering that they would not be killed or otherwise harmed: that they would be treated humanely. That was a promise that American commanders very often worked hard to keep, even over the objections of their own soldiers and their emotions, running high in the heat of battle.

    But no American soldier can promise that any more. And no opposing soldier can believe it. There is every possibility that a peacefully-surrendering individual will be "disappeared" into one of the CIA's gulags and repeatedly tortured, perhaps to death.

    So why should they surrender? Even if they're surrounded, outnumbered, and in a militarily hopless situation, why should they give up? Why not fight it out and try to take a few more Americans with them?

    The CIA's torture program has removed one of the primary reasons for considering surrender as a viable option and thus ensures that more American soldiers will die, fighting protracted battles that need not have been fought by anyone.

    Second, American soldiers are occasionally captured by adversaries. And while some of them have been treated brutally, many have been accorded the rights guaranteed to them under international law by countries who observed the Geneva Conventions because the United States did the same. In other words, those countries treated American prisoners of-war humanely because they wished the same for their own, and they had good reason to believe the United States would obey the law.

    But the CIA has broken that tenuous trust. They've tortured people to death. And as a result, there is now far less reason for adversaries to treat American prisoners properly: why should they? Which means that captured American soldiers in the field now face substantially higher personal risk than they did previously.

    This may not be fixable. I don't know. But if there is any possibility of fixing it, surely it lies along a path that includes the full disclosure of the entire report and every accompanying document. It will be ugly. It will be painful. It will be horrifying. But I think it's the only possible way and I think we, as a nation, owe it to the soldiers we put in harm's way.

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