DENVER – U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said that while it brought him no joy, he was satisfied with the release Tuesday of a summary on torture tactics used by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The report was declassified and released to the public, revealing that techniques were both brutal and ineffective.
Udall, a Democrat from Colorado, fought for six years to have the report released to the public as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He suggested that he would not need to take further steps.
The outgoing senator had said that all options were on the table, including using a privilege of immunity offered to federal elected officials by potentially reading the classified report into the congressional record. After losing re-election in November, Udall held the upper hand with little to lose.
“I believe that our landmark report accomplishes the goals I laid out at the outset and tells the story that needs to be told,” Udall said during remarks from the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon.
The nearly 500 pages summarizes another 6,700 pages of the actual CIA torture report that remains classified.
The summary still contains several redactions, shielding certain countries that served as hosts for CIA detention facilities. But Udall pointed out that the summary narrowed those redactions down to just a few in its final form.
“By releasing the Intelligence Committee’s landmark report, we affirm that we are a nation that does not hide from its past but learns from it, and that an honest examination of our shortcomings is not a sign of weakness but of the strength of our great republic,” Udall said.
The summary reveals that not only were the torture techniques ineffective but that the CIA misled the American public and government officials in an effort to continue the program.
President George W. Bush’s administration, in its pursuit of terror suspects after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, often defended the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.
The report places a spotlight on dark practices worse than the CIA had admitted to, including locking prisoners in dungeon-like cells, where they were bombarded by excruciatingly loud music with only a bucket for waste. It was in these chambers that detainees were sensory deprived, producing hallucinations, insomnia and paranoia, often causing subjects to attempt self-harm or slip into unresponsive medical states.
Examples of sexual assault, forcing detainees to play Russian Roulette, “rectal infusion” (pureed food inserted into the rectum) and long-term isolated confinement are emphasized in the report.
In many cases, the evidence produced from the interrogations were either fabricated or misleading, wasting national security resources, according to the summary.
The report finds that at least 119 detainees went through the CIA detention program, and at least 26 were held “wrongfully,” partly because there was no information to justify their detention.
Republicans responded Tuesday, concerned the release of the report would lead to dangerous conditions for American intelligence and military personnel overseas.
“Congressman Tipton is in the process of reviewing the Senate report, but shares the concerns of House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers that its release could put Americans’ lives at risk around the world,” said Josh Green, a spokesman for Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez. “He supports transparency and also believes that prudence should be exercised in terms of what sensitive national security information is released so that it doesn’t jeopardize American lives or incite violence.”
Republicans suggested the Democratic-led Senate Intelligence Committee’s report overlooked the benefits of the interrogation program, including what the CIA did to prevent another terrorist attack.
“The most important capability this program provided had nothing to do with enhanced interrogation; it was the ability to hold and question terrorists, who, if released, would certainly return to the fight but whose guilt would be difficult to establish in a criminal proceeding without compromising sensitive sources and methods,” Republicans on the Intelligence Committee said in their own 106-page competing report released Tuesday.
CIA Director John Brennan said, “Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom (enhanced interrogation) were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives.”
But the director added the CIA “did not always live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves.”
President Barack Obama, in a statement, acknowledged that Bush’s administration “faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al-Qaida and prevent additional terrorist attacks.”
But, he said, “One of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes, and do better.”