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Senators angry at CIA redactions to torture report

Democratic senators lashed out at the Central Intelligence Agency Tuesday over redactions to the Senate intelligence committee's report on Bush-era torture.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein talks to a reporter at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, June 24, 2014.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein talks to a reporter at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, June 24, 2014.

Democratic senators lashed out at the Central Intelligence Agency Tuesday about redactions to the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Bush-era torture techniques.

“The redactions that CIA has proposed to the intelligence committee’s report on CIA interrogations are totally unacceptable," said Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, chair of the armed services committee, which conducted its own inquiry into Bush-era interrogation. "Classification should be used to protect sources and methods or the disclosure of information which could compromise national security, not to avoid disclosure of improper acts or embarrassing information."

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the intelligence committee, played good cop — but her frustrations were still apparent. She indicated in a statement wanting to work with the administration to excise "redactions that eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusions."

The Senate Intelligence Committee's report is said to be highly critical of the so-called "enhanced interrogation" program, concluding it was brutal and useless. The redactions to the Senate investigation is just the latest example of how far the CIA has gone to defend its conduct during the Bush era. The intelligence committee's investigation was completed by 2012, but delayed by the CIA's objections.

CIA Director John Brennan was forced to apologize last week, admitting that CIA officials had breached a computer network set up for committee staffers. Intelligence committee staff had discovered an internal CIA document that undermined agency criticisms of the report and supported the committee's conclusions.

Months earlier, the CIA accused Senate staffers themselves of unauthorized access to agency computers. A CIA inspector general's report found that accusation had been based on "inaccurate information." Brennan himself insisted that the agency had not spied on the very committee meant to oversee the intelligence community and ensure it complies with the rule of law. He turned out to be wrong. The Justice Department looked into both incidents and decided against a criminal prosecution.

The report had been in the hands of the administration since April, when the committee voted to declassify the executive summary. When it was returned to the committee last week, it was so heavily redacted that Feinstein opted to delay its release.

Two Democratic senators, Martin Heinrich and Mark Udall, and one Republican senator, Rand Paul, have called for Brennan's resignation over the incident. President Obama said last week that he has "full confidence in John Brennan."

Udall voiced support for the delay in releasing the document. "I am committed to working with Chairman Feinstein to declassify the Senate Intelligence Committee's study to the fullest extent possible," he said in a statement. "I believe that the chairman should take all necessary time to ensure that the redactions to the executive summary are appropriate — not merely made to cover up acts that could embarrass the agency."