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]

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.[1] 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.[2] The conclusion of the report pointed out that the CIA did use cruel and unusual techniques if prisoners did not provide key information.[1] The methods used included slapping, humiliation, exposure to cold, sleep deprivation and waterboarding.[2]

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?"[3]

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."[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7][5] 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."[5] Others seeking his resignation included Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Rand Paul (R-KY).[8][9]

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."[10]

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."[11]

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."[12]
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.[13] 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."[14]
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."[15]

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See also