Part Of CIA Torture Report May Finally Be Released Next Week, As More Details Leak

from the it's-a-start dept

Jason Leopold has a big article at Vice detailing some more of what's in the Senate Intelligence Committee's CIA torture report, but the bigger news is that the long fought over, somewhat redacted executive summary may be released next week:
... the Senate committee is hoping to release its report as early as next week, when the US sends a delegation to Geneva, Switzerland where it will submit a report on compliance with the International Convention Against Torture. The release of the executive summary would be an effort to show "some form of accountability," one person familiar with the declassification negotiations said.
Of course, it also notes that the fight over redacting pseudonyms still isn't settled, and that may muck things up. And, really, why wouldn't the CIA keep pushing back? Now that the GOP has won the Senate, it knows that if it can just stall until January, the whole report may get buried.

As for the other leaks about the report, many of them confirm what had previously leaked about the report, but also go deeper into each of those areas. For example, earlier leaks had already talked about how the torture techniques used by the CIA went beyond what was approved, how the CIA tortured more people than previously admitted (and then hid those details), and then lied to Congress claiming that the torture was effective when it was not. Leopold has some more details about all of those, including how the CIA is responding to and challenging some of those findings.

However, Leopold also highlights a variety of ways in which the report does appear to fall short, choosing to pull punches and avoid blaming top administration officials like former Vice President Dick Cheney (despite his previous admissions that he okayed the program), and also carefully avoiding placing any blame on a high-ranking CIA official who is described as "Feinstein's boy":
Although he is identified in the Senate report, the committee did not level any criticism against Stephen Kappes, who was deputy director of the CIA while the interrogation program was up and running. Kappes allegedly played a role in covering up the death of a detainee who froze to death in 2002 at a CIA operated prison in Afghanistan called the "Salt Pit." The death of the detainee is highlighted in the Senate report.

Kappes had been Feinstein's choice to head the CIA after Barack Obama was sworn in as president in 2009. Feinstein is on record stating she would not support Panetta's nomination unless Kappes was named as his deputy, a position he served in until 2010. One former CIA official said Kappes is "Feinstein's boy," suggesting that he was spared criticism because of his close relationship with the Intelligence Committee chairwoman.
As for Cheney:
The Senate report promotes the narrative that the CIA deceived the Bush White House into permitting the agency to use the controversial interrogation techniques against certain captives. This, despite the fact that former Vice President Dick Cheney admitted in 2008 that he personally "signed off" on the waterboarding of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and two other high-value captives because he "thought that it was absolutely the right thing to do."

"This is why the SSCI [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] report is flawed and is not a full historical overview of the EIT program," said one person familiar with it. "Who in their right mind would believe that Dick Cheney does not bear any responsibility here?"
Perhaps even more troubling is that the report does not say that the "enhanced interrogation techniques" were actually torture. We've questioned in the past why Senator Feinstein won't call torture "torture" and apparently that linguistic game continues in this report:
However, the Senate report does not conclude that the CIA violated any domestic or international laws prohibiting the use of torture, contradicting Feinstein's public statements. People familiar with the document say the Senate didn't even use the word "torture" to describe the techniques to which detainees were subjected.
In fact, Leopold claims that the report focuses on the "efficacy" of the torture program and doesn't even touch the questions of legality (or morality).

The report also, apparently, skips over George Tenet's leadership in the CIA, but instead focuses a lot of Michael Hayden:
The committee's executive summary, however, singles out Michael Hayden, who became CIA director in 2006 and is a staunch defender of the use of EITs. He is accused of lying to the panel during a briefing nearly a decade ago when he sought to revamp the CIA's interrogation program.

People familiar with the executive summary said the committee obtained records about Hayden's briefings and carefully reviewed what he told committee members. The report concludes that the former CIA director erroneously told the committee that there were fewer than 100 detainees held captive by the CIA when in fact that number was higher. (The committee's full report says the CIA detained 119 men). Hayden is also criticized for telling the committee that the enhanced interrogation program was "humane." The committee's report concludes that Hayden misrepresented the scope of the program and was not being truthful.
This probably explains why Hayden has been the most vocal and stringent critics of this report. He claimed that Feinstein was "too emotional" to judge the CIA's torture program, and also insisted that it was just a partisan attack.

Still, Leopold's report also highlights how the CIA and its defenders are likely to hit back on the claims about the torture program not being effective. They're going to argue that the torture was the "bad cop" aspect of a "good cop/bad cop" scheme, and the useful information came out when the "good cop" was in the room, but wouldn't have happened without the "bad cop" (i.e., the torture).
Retired Air Force psychologist James Mitchell, who has been credited with being the architect of the CIA's enhanced interrogation program — he's bound by a non-disclosure agreement he signed with the government and does not confirm, deny, or discuss his role in the program — said that his understanding of "the purpose of the enhanced interrogation program was to get the detainee to be willing to engage with a debriefer or a targeter who was asking a question, and that it wasn't designed so that you would ask questions about actionable intelligence… while the detainee was experiencing the enhanced interrogation program."

In other words, Mitchell is saying the enhanced interrogation program was akin to a good cop, bad cop act. For example, a "bad cop" might use EITs on a detainee, then leave the room. A "good cop" might then enter the room and, without the use of any kind of force, get answers from the detainee, who had just been subjected to EITs. If the bad cop and good cop submit separate reports, it would appear on paper that the EITs were ineffective because the bad cop didn't get the answers — the good cop did.

And the Senate would have used that intel in compiling its report.

"If you could go in and read the individual pieces of intel that were written as a result of the debriefings and the interrogations, what would that look like in the database?" Mitchell says. "What that would look like is that all the actionable intelligence came from the good cop just like you would expect, and you wouldn't see a lot of actionable intelligence leading to things like capturing bin Laden coming from the enhanced interrogation program because it wasn't designed to do that."
Still, from previous leaks, even that explanation seems questionable -- as it appears that much of the useful information came from people who weren't being tortured or before they were tortured, suggesting that argument is bunk. And, even if it were true, that doesn't magically make torture right in any way (legally or morally).

Either way, all this speculation is getting ridiculous. The Senate should just release the damn report already.

Filed Under: cia, dianne feinstein, michael hayden, senate, senate intelligence committee, torture, torture report


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    David Bardes, 7 Nov 2014 @ 4:29pm

    Cold Cell Torture

    The "detainee who froze to death in 2002" died of "cold cell" or "induced hypothermia," torture, as named by the Bush memo's. The problem, however, is 'cold cell torture' is in use around the US and many citizens have died of hypothermia in cold cells. See http://ColdCellTorture.com

Add Your Comment

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



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.