WASHINGTON – CIA officers subjected some terrorism suspects the agency held after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to interrogation methods that were not approved by either the Justice Department or their own headquarters and illegally detained 26 of the 119 in CIA custody, the Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded in its still-secret report, McClatchy has learned.
The spy agency program’s reliance on brutal techniques – much more abusive than previously known – and its failure to gather valuable information from the detainees harmed the United States’ credibility, according to the committee’s findings in its scathing 6,300-page report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention program.
The agency also repeatedly misled the Justice Department while stymieing Congress’ and the White House’s efforts to oversee the secret and now-defunct program, McClatchy has learned.
In all, the committee came to 20 conclusions about the CIA’s harsh interrogation tactics after spending six years and $40 million evaluating the controversial program, which began during the Bush administration.
The committee voted 11-3 Thursday to declassify an executive summary and conclusions. The findings and summary now will go to the White House and CIA for eventual public release.
Despite the bipartisan vote, Republicans and Democrats were at odds over the report’s value.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who chairs the committee, maintained that the eventual release of the summary and findings will show “that this nation admits its errors, as painful as they may be, and seeks to learn from them.”
She called the findings shocking, adding: “The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation. It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen. This is not what Americans do.”
Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the committee’s top Republican, who said he’d voted to declassify, was highly critical of the report, however.
He told McClatchy it’s “a waste of time,” saying, “There is absolutely concrete evidence that has been gleaned from the individuals who have been interrogated in this program that led not only to [Osama] bin Laden’s takedown but to the interruption and disruption of other terrorist plots over the years.”
The Senate panel concluded that the techniques were ineffective. The committee also made these findings:
• Critics inside the CIA were cut out of the debate over the program or ignored, and the news media were manipulated with leaks that tended to blunt criticism of the agency.
• While the CIA’s high-level officials mismanaged the program, interrogators who crossed the line into abusive behavior went unpunished.
• Even six months after the spy agency received the legal authority to proceed, its officers remained unprepared for interrogating detainees.
Committee Republicans were furious over the report. The three dissenters in the vote to declassify were all Republicans.
Among those not supporting declassification were Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and James Risch of Idaho.
In a joint statement, they called the findings “a one-sided, partisan report to the CIA and White House for declassification despite warnings from the State Department and our allies indicating that declassification of this report could endanger the lives of American diplomats and citizens overseas and jeopardize U.S. relations with other countries.”
They contended the study has “pitted the Senate Intelligence Committee against the CIA and distracted us from focusing on the many threats facing our national security.”
The question remained how much of the report would be divulged because the White House and the CIA might decide to release or withhold different portions. It’s also unclear how long the final decision would take, with some experts predicting months.