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Susan Collins (speaking on the shutdown in November 2013)
Sens. Angus King, the Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats, and Susan Collins, a Republican who is as close to a maverick as the party includes these days, announced Wednesday that they will vote to declassify the "Finding & Conclusions" and the Executive Summary of the 6,300-page torture report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Both senators are members of the 15-member committee, which is scheduled to vote on declassification Thursday.

Good to hear. But even if the vote is favorable, as now seems probable, it might be months or longer before the public actually sees the report, which was completed 16 months ago. It has been the subject of review by the CIA and unproductive discussions between committee members and the agency, which ran the torture program whose methods became euphemized as "enhanced interrogation techniques." The CIA would almost certainly seek a final review of the parts of the report the committee seeks to declassify.

Having the CIA handle such a review is especially troubling given the details of the report that have been leaked to the press. In addition to what was already known, what those details show is that the agency intentionally released false information to persuade people that torture works and that it employed methods of torture not previously confirmed. Nobody should be surprised by either of those revelations.

More on the report and possibility of declassification below the fold.

In their joint statement, King and Collins said:

“We remain strongly opposed to the use of torture, believing that it is fundamentally contrary to American values. While we have some concerns about the process for developing the report, its findings lead us to conclude that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture. This inhumane and brutal treatment never should have occurred. Further, the report raises serious concerns about the CIA’s management of this program.

“Our vote to declassify this report does not signal our full endorsement of all of its conclusions or its methodology. The report has some intrinsic limitations because it did not involve direct interviews of CIA officials, contract personnel, or other Executive branch personnel. It also, unfortunately, did not include the participation of the staff of Republican Committee members. We do, however, believe in transparency and believe that the Executive Summary, and Additional and Dissenting Views, and the CIA’s rebuttal should be made public with appropriate redactions so the American public can reach their own conclusions about the conduct of this program.

“Torture is wrong, and we must make sure that the misconduct and the grave errors made in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program never happen again.”

If the committee vote is favorable, the panel will ask President Obama for the declassification, an unnamed congressional aide told Reuters: "The president is the head of the Executive Branch and, under executive order, is the ultimate decision-making authority on declassification. [...] Further, he has spoken publicly on his views." Obama has recently supported releasing some version of the report to the public.

Collins, King and many other senators, as well as the president himself, have denounced torture that the CIA engaged in after the 9/11 attacks. But many of the principals of the Bush administration involved in the torture program continue to support it. Bush himself did in his presidential memoir, Decision Points. Among the claims made by former CIA Counterterrorism Center chief Jose Rodriguez and former Vice President Dick Cheney is that torture helped to track down Osama bin Laden as well as prevent another major terrorist attack on the United States. Members of the select committee dispute that. While being vague about the actual contents of the torture report, they say that waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other measures did not provide significant, actionable information.

The select committee's report is apparently a good deal more damning than expected. But even if the parts of it that Collins, King and others on the committee want declassified really are brought into public view—indeed, even if the entire 6,300 pages are eventually released with minimal excisions—the investigation still will not give Americans as good a picture as we deserve of what happened and how it happened. The failure to interview some key individuals in the Bush administration and the failure to recommend any penalty whatsoever against those who ordered and engaged in torture in America's name means the report will not be as effective as it should have been.

More importantly, it means that, down the road, U.S. officials will presume that because their predecessors escaped punishment, they too can get away with human rights violations without hurting their think-tank appointments or collection of ample lecture fees. Thus do we set an example for the world.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 01:02 PM PDT.

Also republished by BellowsforSenate and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I was reading various news stories (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    about declassifying the report doesn't really mean that anybody from the unwashed masses can actually read it. It sounds like how many angles can dance on the head of a declassified pin.

    We shall see if this was anything more than just a personal ego trip for DiFi.

  •  Don't you love? (18+ / 0-)

    Don't you love how the only question is releasing the report, not holding the criminals accountable?


    •  Their only real concern is with bad PR. (7+ / 0-)

      Torture qua torture doesn't trouble the DiFis of this world unduly much.

      When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill...

      by PhilJD on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 01:25:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The thing that struck me (6+ / 0-)

      Was that the report "did not include the staff of Republican committee members".

      Let's be clear: We are at a point when the investigation of the worst crime short of murder is less important than partisanship, less important than group membership, less important than obstruction for the sake of obstruction. Now, Republicans support policies that kill people all the time... Witness the refusal to expanded Medicare under the ACA.

      But torture is different. It is more intimate than a policy debate that ends in deaths. Torture is the direct, unmediated infliction of extreme harm on another person under one's physical control.

      And it seems that the GOP and many in the Obama Administration itself don't see that as something to be investigated or questioned. In the case of the President himself, I have to believe it is more political cowardice than deliberate malice... But regardless, it is almost beyond belief that a few democrats, one independent and one republican are all the allies we have.

      “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” Charles Darwin

      by ivorybill on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 05:50:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is inevitable: (9+ / 0-)
    down the road, U.S. officials will presume that because their predecessors escaped punishment they too can get away with human rights violations
    It's all the argument needed to refute the "look forward" nonsense. Even if one is absolutely convinced that Democrats would never engage in these practices, I doubt that even the rosiest glasses reveal an America in which Democrats hold power forever.

    Without prosecutions now, it's a given that the next GOP regime will once again revel in torture.

    When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill...

    by PhilJD on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 01:22:41 PM PDT

    •  Justice Brandeis- 'If the government becomes a (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.'

      The entire quote:

      'Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means -- to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal -- would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this court should resolutely set its face.'
      Dissenting, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928).
      Emphasis added.

      And another-

      'At the foundation of our civil liberty lies the principle which denies to government officials an exceptional position before the law and which subjects them to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen.
      Dissent, Burdeau v. McDowell, 256 U.S. 465, 477 (1921).

      Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
      ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

      by FarWestGirl on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 12:39:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Collins has been under pressure (18+ / 0-)

    to vote for release of the report, from Maine newspapers as well as from her Democratic challenger, Shenna Bellows:

    “Americans deserve to know the full extent of our country’s use of torture under the Bush administration,” said Bellows. “We need to properly address these mistakes of the past, so that history may never repeat itself. It's time to end the secrecy and restore the rule of law.”

    As the former Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, Bellows strongly advocated against the use of torture by both American intelligence agencies and the military. She has written many pieces on the subject of torture, and she led a successful campaign against solitary confinement, a form of torture, in Maine prisons. Bellows has also been a long-time advocate of the freedom of information, serving on Maine's Freedom of Information Coalition and the Maine Right to Know Advisory Committee for several years.

    Good to see Collins is finally prepared to do the right thing, as her constituents have repeatedly urged.
    Bellows stands with many Maine citizens who have asked Republican Senator Susan Collins, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, to vote to release the torture report. In 2006, Collinsvoted in favor of the controversial Military Commissions Act of 2006, which failed to prohibit the worst interrogation techniques and detainees the right to habeas corpus.

    Support a Progressive Dem from Maine for US Senate! Bellows for Senate

    by Illegitimi non carborundum on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 01:53:17 PM PDT

  •  "we" don't "torture" (7+ / 0-)

    If it happened, it wasn't torture.  Or if it was torture, it wasn't by us.

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 02:11:55 PM PDT

  •  Reading the excerpt above, it looks as if (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    she's saying that Republican staffers were guilty of torture just like the CIA was.  At least that's how my jaded brain interpreted it.

  •  Wonder how much of this CAN (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fiona West, Chacounne

    be attributed to the UN Report?  We are looking REAL bad and the world knows it.

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 03:35:49 PM PDT

  •  And.... This is One More Reason (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chacounne, allie4fairness, wasatch

    why we need more Edward Snowdens.

    Again, these agencies are out of control they are not accountable to anyone, and they are dangerous.

    "We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire; unfortunately, we are also beyond common sense." Gore Vidal

    by Superpole on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 03:35:58 PM PDT

    •  I think it's worse than that. I don't think... (4+ / 0-)

      ...the CIA is a rogue agency. I think the guys who wrote "legal" memos about torture and the guys who ordered torture to be undertaken are the missing targets here. While I-was-only-following-orders is an unacceptable excuse, the first effort should be to deal with those were in control, giving orders. Cheney and Rumsfeld.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 06:27:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think our first obligation (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        benamery21, RandomNonviolence

        is to stop the torture that is going on now.

        Stopping U.S. rendition to torture by Afghan forces, real investigation and prosecution of the 2013 torture and killings in Wardak, opening up and exposing what goes on in the strongly rumored small hidden temporary interrogation facilities all over Afghanistan, and the like.

        This comes from a sense about the obligation on a nation to deal with systematic and institutionalized torture. That stopping current torture is the first and highest priority.


      •  That's Just it-- HOW (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        do we know what sort of agency they are when there is ZERO transparency? we don't know what they are doing-- because they are not required to tell us.

        who do these people report to, outside of the agency?

        "We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire; unfortunately, we are also beyond common sense." Gore Vidal

        by Superpole on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 03:22:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  the guys who wrote the legal memos are the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        very first in my books:

        From: Who are the Torture Memo Authors? (April 17, 2009)

        As officials in the department's Office of Legal Counsel Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury authored the four memos. The first was written in 2002 by Bybee, and the latter three in 2005 by Bradbury. So: who are Bybee and Bradbury?

        Bradbury first. He served as an attorney-adviser in the OLC during the George H. W. Bush administration, before clerking for Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas and working for Ken Starr's law firm  Bradbury returned to OLC in 2004, as a Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

        As for Bybee, he served in the Justice Department during the Reagan administration, then was an associate counsel to President George H. W. Bush. He spent most of the 90s teaching law at Louisiana State University, before in 2001 being appointed an Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel. While there, he wrote four memos, subsequently released by the Obama administration (one yesterday, three last month), justifying the use of harsh interrogation techniques including waterboarding.

        In 2003, President Bush nominated Bybee to serve as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. After an initial hold up, Bybee was confirmed by the Senate.

        Thanks to Bybee's authorship of the memos, a Spanish judge is considering indicting him -- as well as five other former Bush administration officials -- for war crimes

        From Who is Steve Bradbury? (October 19, 2007):
        It took two days of hearings for the Senate Judiciary Committee to reinforce its consensus that Michael Mukasey should be attorney general.  The panel asked Mukasey tough questions about torture, detentions, surveillance and the president's inherent wartime powers.

        But those questions might have been misdirected. That's because an obscure Justice Department lawyer, Steven G. Bradbury, the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), might actually be more important to the war on terrorism than the attorney general. ... since the OLC chief has the power to issue what former chief Jack Goldsmith called " an advance pardon" for dubious activities.

        The Office of Legal Counsel's job is to give guidance about whether certain government policies or presidential prerogatives are legal. But it's not meant to be an advocate for the president himself -- that's the White House counsel's responsibility. Goldsmith, in an agonizing reappraisal during 2003 and 2004, ended up rescinding earlier OLC directives about interrogation, expressed discomfort over administration plans to try terrorism suspects in military tribunals, and was part of a near-revolt in DOJ over warrantless surveillance, all of which is documented in Goldsmith's meditation on presidential authority, The Terror Presidency.

        These are the enablers.

        If you consider Clarence Thomas vote yesterday it fits the picture that Bradbury clerked for him and for Ken Starr.

        This all brings up bad memories.

  •  I would not expect the full report to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whl, Kingsmeg

    be released without major excisions.  That is the nature of "sources and methods" claims.  However, from all reports, the Executive Summary is a 350 page document which should, if not redacted, shine much light on this issue.

    I’ve said before, I will always work with anyone who is willing to make this law work even better. But the debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay. -- President Barack Obama

    by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 03:41:21 PM PDT

  •  How does Cheney know (6+ / 0-)

    what helped track down bin Laden??  IIRC, he had nothing to do with it; a bleeding heart liberal named President Obama found him.

    Money should be treated like any other controlled substance; if you can't use it responsibly then you don't get to use it.

    by La Gitane on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 03:54:51 PM PDT

    •  Cheney knows torture worked, because he (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kingsmeg, Chacounne, LinSea, Meteor Blades

      knows torture is right, when the right people do it, because it's macho and fierce and tough and authoritative and "foreward-leaning."  Remember how they used to love that term?  Remember all that drek from the Project for a New American Century, in which true soldierly military geniuses like Bill Crystal and Cheney explained that the US military has been too timid and wishy-washy to make proper use of American power to boldly reshape the world?

      Remember how they were going to boldly reshape the Middle East into the perfect platform for projecting America's global power, and how the IRaqis would be damned grateful for the chance to be part of that?

      I doubt that CHeney is capable of seriously entertaining the possibility that torture didn't help track down Bin Laden, or do anything else of real national security value.  Because that would lead pretty directly to the acknowledgment that his entire basis for initiating a bloody war of unprovoked aggression was nothing but lies and arrogance and massive ignorance, and the blind inability to understand that people unlike him and his circle are nonetheless actual living human beings.

      --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

      by Fiona West on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 04:46:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As I said,m (0+ / 0-)

    several weeks ago, pigs will fly before that report is declassified.

    They (Democrats, signed off by PBO) may release a summary of sorts just before the election, if they can.  I'm not sure they'll be able to get past CIA obstruction. In any event, it will not contain any information that isn't already public knowledge.

    190 milliseconds....

    by Kingsmeg on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 04:04:33 PM PDT

  •  maybe if some or all of this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LinSea, Meteor Blades

    report gets released to the public..... er, those who pay the billions of dollars that flow into the black hole that is secretive government agencies - maybe there would be some pressure to dismantle the #007 part of our so-called “intelligence” agencies.

    I figure that the only ones who have no clue what the f... the intelligence agencies of countries that can afford them are doing are the guys and gals footing the bills - us.

    I figure the perpetrators of the torture from all the countries that commit torture and do other nasty things are well known to each other across the world.

    I saw some good soldiers during the congressional hearings when Gates was first appointed as CIA director. Those good soldiers were intelligence analysts who had worked for the agency. Mr. Goodman was one of them. He was, unlike the top echelon of the CIA, not a political operative. He spoke honestly and frankly at the time about how he and other analysts were trying to provide information to their superiors about events on the ground in the USSR that was contrary to the politics of the White House but they were ignored.

    Things never change.

    It makes me sick to think that some perverted individuals like Richard P Cheney and his ilk within certain agencies get to carry out horrors that serve their inner beasts but do not serve our country very well.

    We have lost a good deal thanks to Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush and those in the CIA who were willing to serve them.

    Finally people have gotten sick and tired of being had and taken for idiots. Mikhail Gorbachev

    by eve on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 04:20:17 PM PDT

  •  I follow this closely (7+ / 0-)

    But really have nothing to say other than we have to get this right. This whole process needs to be transparent and the public needs to know what was done in their name and to really confront the reality of what torture is, not by watching 24 or playing video games, but looking directly at reality. I've said it before, but the Obama Administration's refusal to deal with this legacy is every bit as damaging to our country as its failure to implement real regulation of the financial industry. As much as I am conditioned to personally like Obama and as much as his election had to happen in 2008 and 2012, I just can't get past what appears to be a deliberate violation of the oath of office. Torture corrodes all it touches. It should come as no surprise that the CIA insisted on continuing to torture prisoners after they themselves recognized that there was no more information to be extracted. That is the nature of torture... Once you accept that breaking a person completely is a positive good, there are no more limits or restraints.

    “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” Charles Darwin

    by ivorybill on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 05:37:24 PM PDT

  •  i guess (0+ / 0-)

    having the same number of letters as a designation are not the only thing the cia and kgb have in common.

    imo the cia are more repugnant since america is supposed to be a democracy and an open society but then again that is taking a rather optimistic view of things.

  •  Like the result (0+ / 0-)

    But not the method. Head meet sand.

    You best believe it does

    by HangsLeft on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 06:42:56 PM PDT

  •  Far too late for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the hundreds of thousands killed and injured but, nonetheless, a welcome incremental step toward accountability for the war criminals and their servile PNAC operatives who authored — short of slavery — the most disgraceful period in American history.

    It won't be settled until the names Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al, are enshrined for posterity in the global annals of war crime.

    Oughta' look good on a large, illuminated sign outside Junior's liberry.

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