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CIA interrogation tactics investigation

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Portions of an investigation of the interrogation methods of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after September 11, 2001, were made public on July 30, 2014, while the full report was expected to be released at some point in August 2014.[1] The report was eventually declassified on December 3, 2014, and released to the public on December 9, 2014.[2]

Report findings

The 6,300 page report found that former Secretary of State Colin Powell and many U.S. ambassadors abroad were not initially told of harsh interrogation tactics being used on potential terrorists at "black sites" in foreign countries. Powell was eventually informed of the tactics and sat in on meetings during which they were discussed.[3] While some ambassadors were told of the interrogations in their countries, they were also told not to say anything to their superiors about the methods or the secret prison sites.[4] President Bush, who defended the CIA's tactics, was not originally informed of the interrogation methods until 2006.[5]

The conclusion of the report pointed out that the CIA did use cruel and unusual techniques if prisoners did not provide key information.[6] However, the report also noted that over one-sixth of the prisoners did not meet the requirements needed to be subjected to such interrogation techniques. The methods used included slapping, humiliation, confinement, stress positions, sleep deprivation and waterboarding. Many of the methods used were outside the scope of approved practices by the U.S. Department of Justice.[7]

CIA response

On December 9, 2014, the CIA responded to the release of the report. Representatives stated that the Senate report was deeply flawed in that it relied mostly on CIA written documents. The agency argued that the report did not include interviews of their personnel which consequently understated the value of the intelligence they gathered. Moreover, representatives from the agency noted that management problems highlighted in the report were resolved earlier in the program.[8] CIA director John Brennan acknowledged mistakes in the program itself but disagreed with the report's conclusions. He emphasized that missteps by the management were fixed and that important intelligence was gained from the program. Brennan noted that many lives were potentially saved from intelligence gathered by interrogations and used to help thwart terrorist attacks. “While we made mistakes, the record does not support the study’s inference that the Agency systematically and intentionally misled each of these audiences on the effectiveness of the program," he said.[9]

White House talking points

The White House accidentally released a list of talking points to the Associated Press while preparing for the public release of the report. Among the statements, was one proposed by the State Department, claiming, "This report tells a story of which no American is proud. But it is also part of another story of which we can be proud. America’s democratic system worked just as it was designed to work in bringing an end to actions inconsistent with our democratic values." The talking points also posed questions that the administration might face following the report's release, including, "Will the Justice Department revisit its decision not to prosecute anyone?"[10]

Battle over redactions

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote a letter to President Barack Obama arguing that too much of the document was redacted by the administration, including key points to the committee's findings. In her letter, she claimed, "I have concluded the redactions eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusions. Until these redactions are addressed to the committee’s satisfaction, the report will not be made public." According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the administration redacted about 15 percent of the 6,000 page document. A U.S. official working on preparing the summary for release stated about the redaction of CIA officers' detailed information, "A pseudonym itself is little protection from exposure when a host of other information about that officer is made available to the public and will likely be seen by adversaries and foreign intelligence services."[11] Feinstein however pushed for the report to be released after the general election on November 4, 2014. The International Business Times reported that Feinstein was pressured to release the report since her position as chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence was likely to diminish when Republicans would gain senate majority.[12]

Security threats and report release

The White House stated that President Obama was fully supportive of making the report public. There were however reported incidents of wrangling between the CIA, Congress and White House staff on the timing of the report's release. Many Republican representatives of Congress noted concerns about increased security threats from the report's release. White House staff previously discussed with Feinstein on limiting the details released so as to minimize international backlash.[13]

Secretary of State John Kerry also expressed his concern about the timing of the release. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, "... a lot is going on in the world, and Kerry wanted to make sure that foreign policy implications were being appropriately factored into timing." Kerry contacted Feinstein on Friday December 5, 2014, to ensure that U.S. foreign policy and security of diplomatic missions were taken into account when the report was released.[14]

Senate computers hacked by CIA

The CIA's inspector general discovered that several CIA employees "improperly accessed or caused access" to the Senate Intelligence Committee computers that were used while investigating the CIA's interrogation tactics.[15] Two lawyers and three computer experts were found to be the culprits of the CIA's snooping. CIA Director John Brennan supposedly put an end to the practice following an internal investigation, but the CIA's office of security opened another investigation, this one unauthorized, that led to the reading of congressional staffers' emails. Brennan apologized to the Senate for the intrusion on July 31, 2014, and followed up, ordering an internal accountability board look into the action of those involved in the spying operation and determine whether discipline was warranted. A summary of the inspector general's report did not reveal who ordered the operation.[16]

Calls for Brennan's resignation

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) accused the CIA of the spying in March 2014, suggesting the CIA had "violated the separation-of-powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution," but the inspector general's findings were not released until July 31, 2014.[17][15] A number of lawmakers immediately called for Brennan's resignation upon hearing of the news, with Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) claiming the "CIA unconstitutionally spied on Congress. These offenses, along with other errors in judgment by some at the CIA, demonstrate a tremendous failure of leadership, and there must be consequences."[15] Others seeking his resignation included Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Rand Paul (R-KY).[18][19]

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) left the discipline to the CIA, stating, "Obviously this is a very serious situation and these are serious violations. The individuals who breached the (committee) computer, I think, are going to have to be dealt with, I think, very harshly by the CIA. But it's in the director's hands."[20]

Statements about the report

President Obama

President Barack Obama
August 1, 2014: During a weekly press conference prior to the release of the official report, President Barack Obama acknowledged that the U.S. had "tortured some folks."[21]

December 9, 2014: Obama released a statement about the report that reiterated his disapproval of the Bush-era interrogation practices. "The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests,” Obama said. “These techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners."[22]

Senators and representatives

August 1, 2014: Sen. Dianne Feinstein stated that she believed the Americans would find the report "far more systematic and widespread than we thought."
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) called for the resignation of CIA Director John Brennan upon discovering that Senate committee computers were spied on by the agency, supposedly without Brennan's knowledge. Paul claimed, "It is illegal for the CIA to spy on Americans and an affront to our republic to spy on the Senate. Brennan told the American people that the CIA did not spy on the Senate but now he admits that they did. Brennan should dismiss those responsible for breaking the law and be relieved of his post."[23]
August 3, 2014: Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) disputed the position that the tactics used were inappropriate, claiming, "Information gleaned from these interrogations was in fact used to interrupt and disrupt terrorist plots, including some information that took down Bin Laden." He also stated that Senate Republicans would release a separate report regarding the techniques used by the CIA.[24] Chambliss also defended CIA Director Brennan, suggesting, "Once he got all the facts, he came back and he did apologize. He was wrong. Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein was right. If I thought John Brennan knew about this then ... certainly we'd be calling for his resignation. ... But I will tell you that these five staffers that did this — if they worked for me, they'd be gone now."[25]
September 2, 2014: A spokesperson for Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) explained the reports findings that no new information was gathered from torture, stating, "He believes the swift declassification — with as few redactions as possible — will not only provide a full and accurate accounting of this misguided and destructive program, but also will ensure future administrations do not repeat its mistakes. It also forcefully rebuts arguments that torture is effective."[26]
December 8, 2014: Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) both expressed their displeasure with the release of the report, saying it was "reckless and irresponsible." They noted concerns about how releasing the report will be harmful for U.S. military and diplomatic operations. In a joint statement, the senators said, "This report does not qualify as either serious or constructive."[27]

Recent news

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See also


  1. The Guardian, "CIA initially 'kept Colin Powell in the dark' about torture practices," July 30, 2014
  2. Politico, "White House: U.S. prepared for torture report release," December 8, 2014
  3. The Guardian, "CIA initially 'kept Colin Powell in the dark' about torture practices," July 30, 2014
  4. Business Insider, "The White House Accidentally Emailed Reporters Talking Points About The Still-Classified CIA Torture Report," July 30, 2014
  5. Politico, "Senate report: CIA misled public, Bush on use of torture," December 9, 2014
  6. The Guardian, "CIA initially 'kept Colin Powell in the dark' about torture practices," July 30, 2014
  7. Politico, "Senate report: CIA misled public, Bush on use of torture," December 9, 2014
  8. Politico, "Senate report: CIA misled public, Bush on use of torture," December 9, 2014
  9. Politico, "Senate report: CIA misled public, Bush on use of torture," December 9, 2014
  10. Associated Press, "Topline Messages (as proposed by State)," accessed August 1, 2014
  11. The Washington Post, "Senate, CIA clash over redactions in interrogation report," August 5, 2014
  12. International Business Times, "Why The CIA Torture Report Release Took Years of Wrangling And Negotiations," December 9, 2014
  13. Politico, "Senate report: CIA misled public, Bush on use of torture," December 9, 2014
  14. Politico, "Senate report: CIA misled public, Bush on use of torture," December 9, 2014
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Wall Street Journal, "Investigation Finds CIA Improperly Accessed Senate Computers," July 31, 2014
  16. Christian-Science Monitor, CIA admits to spying on Senate Intelligence Committee," July 31, 2014
  17. The Washington Post, "Feinstein: CIA searched Intelligence Committee computers," March 11, 2014
  18. The Hill, "Senators call for CIA chief's resignation," July 31, 2014
  19. The Atlantic, "Senator Rand Paul: CIA Director John Brennan Should Be Fired," August 1, 2014
  20. CNN, "CIA apologizes for spying on Senate committee," July 31, 2014
  21. Politico, "Obama: 'We tortured some folks'," August 1, 2014
  22. Politico, "Senate report: CIA misled public, Bush on use of torture," December 9, 2014
  23. The Hill, "Rand Paul calls for removal of CIA director," August 1, 2014
  24. The Guardian, "Senate Republicans to issue minority report on CIA 'torture' techniques," August 3, 2014
  25. Politico, "Saxby Chambliss calls for CIA staffers to go," August 3, 2014
  26. The Hill, "Nerves fray over CIA report's release," September 2, 2014
  27. USA Today, "7 key facts on the senate CIA torture interrogation report," December 8, 2014