Political pressures and tensions are running high in Washington (and elsewhere) in advance of the expected publication this week of a detailed Senate examination on the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) tactics. The report, which is rumored to detail CIA torture methods used in the years since Sept. 11, 2001, is a political time bomb and is expected to ignite strong reactions worldwide, including potential violence against American abroad.
To be published by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), the report is expected to be an exhaustive look at U.S. intelligence gathering. The primary focus is said to be the CIA detention and interrogation that took place during President George W. Bush’s era. In 2009, the SSCI began its investigation into assertions that terrorism suspects were tortured during the Bush administration. Such practices violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Consequently, many expect the report’s release to incite anti-American responses.
The release of the information is highly controversial, and is the content. Secretary of State John Kerry is believed to have urged California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was in charge of the report for SSCI, to reconsider timing of the release. Feinstein, however, is up again a political deadline since this is the last week the Democrats will be in charge of the Senate for the foreseeable future (Congress will then go into recess and, when they return, the Republicans take charge).
Republicans want to shelve the report, which is rumored to be highly negative about the last Republican administration. President Barack Obama signed an executive order his first year in office outlawing torture techniques.
Feinstein is attempting to release a 510-page executive summary of the Senate torture report; actual report is a whopping 6,700 pages long. Some have called the tome, which was more than five years in the making, likely to be one of Feinstein’s most enduring legacies.
According to reports, the CIA fiercely debates and disputes parts of the report, and has resisted the investigation from the onset. Even the President and his administration are reluctant about the release of the data. Congressional staff and Administration personnel have argued for months about how much information can be released without endangering intelligence operations or U.S. foreign relations.
The administration believes public disclosure may prove embarrassing for the country and could compromise policy and intelligence operations. Obama also reportedly does not want attention to look backward as things that are no longer being done. Additionally, they fear the safety of CIA personnel. There have been discussions of using pseudonyms for agents involved in the torture program. However, both the CIA and the White House believe that even fake names will risk the safety of agents.
Those who have read the report indicated to reporters that it includes disturbing details about CIA torture techniques, such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and confinement in small spaces. The report also reportedly acknowledges that the torture did not produce significant intelligence, a conclusion that some intelligence officials dispute.
Feinstein reportedly believes releasing the information will reinforce constitutional values. “Anybody who reads this is going to never let this happen again,” she has stated. Clearly, however, the heightened political atmosphere in Washington with the Senate changing hands is making the report on CIA torture methods a time bomb for which the clock in counting down quickly.
By Dyanne Weiss