The public has waited quite a while for the 6,300-page report from the Senate Intelligence Committee on U.S. torture policies during the Bush/Cheney era. The comprehensive investigation, completed over several years, is complete, but it remains classified.
That has not yet changed, but the Washington Post published a report
overnight on the report's findings, based on descriptions from current and former U.S. officials who've seen it, and it will apparently be a brutal indictment of what the Bush/Cheney administration did in our name.
A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years -- concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques. The report, built around detailed chronologies of dozens of CIA detainees, documents a long-standing pattern of unsubstantiated claims as agency officials sought permission to use -- and later tried to defend -- excruciating interrogation methods that yielded little, if any, significant intelligence, according to U.S. officials who have reviewed the document.
Reading the Post's report, it becomes clear that we're talking about two main areas of profound wrongdoing. The first, of course, is the torture and abusive tactics themselves, which were illegal and violate every sensible norm on how detainees should be treated. The article even referenced instances in which prisoners were abused after analysts were convinced they had no additional information to share, and one incident in which a terrorist suspect was beaten after he was cooperative.
The second is the allegation that the Central Intelligence Agency deliberately deceived everyone about its own policies -- which didn't even produce the intended results.
One U.S. official briefed on the report told the Post, "The CIA described [its program] repeatedly both to the Department of Justice and eventually to Congress as getting unique, otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives. Was that actually true? The answer is no."
It gets worse:
Classified files reviewed by committee investigators reveal internal divisions over the interrogation program, officials said, including one case in which CIA employees left the agency's secret prison in Thailand after becoming disturbed by the brutal measures being employed there. The report also cites cases in which officials at CIA headquarters demanded the continued use of harsh interrogation techniques even after analysts were convinced that prisoners had no more information to give. The report describes previously undisclosed cases of abuse, including the alleged repeated dunking of a terrorism suspect in tanks of ice water at a detention site in Afghanistan — a method that bore similarities to waterboarding but never appeared on any Justice Department-approved list of techniques.
Kevin Drum's response
to the article rings true: "So the torture was even worse than we thought; it produced very little in the way of actionable intelligence; and the CIA lied about this in order to preserve their ability to torture prisoners. Anybody who isn't sickened by this needs to take very long, very deep look into their souls."
The report is clearly a document that will reignite debate, but whether it will be subjected to public scrutiny remains unclear. The Intelligence Committee will reportedly vote later this week on sending an executive summary -- roughly 400 pages long -- to President Obama for declassification.
As for those who championed the torture policies, former Vice President Dick Cheney said
just last week, "If I would have to do it all over again, I would. The results speak for themselves."