Release the damn torture reports, already
Another strong NY Times editorial. I think they are seeing President Obama in a new light. I know I am.
A dozen years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it is appalling that official reports about the extent and nature of the rendition, detention and torture that came in their aftermath are still being kept from the American public and even members of Congress charged with overseeing intelligence activities.
The program was abandoned years ago. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s exhaustive 6,000-page report was completed last December. But it has yet to be declassified. Likely the closest to a full accounting the nation is going to get, the report is said to contain unsparing criticism of the program. News reports have said it chronicles the Central Intelligence Agency’s repeated misleading of the White House, Congress and the public about the value of brutal and lawless methods that yielded little valuable intelligence despite the claims of former Vice President Dick Cheney and other defenders of torture.
The C.I.A. wrote a 122-page rebuttal to the Senate’s report, which was delivered by the agency’s current director, John Brennan, in June, four months after the committee’s deadline. It, too, remains under wraps.
The C.I.A. and the committee’s staff have conducted some 60 hours of negotiations on the agency’s proposed changes to the report. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, has expressed frustration with the delay. She has said she aims to have the committee vote in January to begin a formal declassification process at least for those sections of the report. That process could take weeks or it could take many months, depending on how long the C.I.A. drags it out.
The lack of transparency was underlined on Tuesday during a hearing on the nomination of Caroline Krass to be the C.I.A.’s top lawyer. Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, disclosed the existence of an internal study done by the C.I.A. under Mr. Brennan’s predecessor, Leon Panetta, that contradicted the agency’s response to the Senate study. Mr. Udall said he believed it was “consistent with the Intelligence’s Committee’s report.” Mr. Udall said: “This raises fundamental questions about why a review the C.I.A. conducted internally years ago — and never provided to the committee — is so different from the C.I.A.’s formal response to the committee study.”
The committee must insist on the Obama administration’s cooperation in making public all three documents — the Senate Intelligence Committee report, the official C.I.A. response to it, and the internal C.I.A. study.
Rendition, illegal detention and torture did not arise on President Obama’s watch. He has repeatedly denounced the use of torture and ended the detention program as one of his first White House acts. But his expansive claims of secrecy have succeeded in blocking victims’ lawsuits and helping to keep details of rendition and torture secret, denying the country a reckoning necessary for the historical record, establishing accountability and avoiding similar human rights violations in the future.
Mr. Obama has a duty to ensure prompt public release of the documents — minimally redacted to protect genuine national security secrets, not to avoid embarrassment.
I believe that Mr. Obama is a substantial part of the problem.