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.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.
“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.”
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.