Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to send the executive summary of a report detailing the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation programs” to President Obama for declassification. The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is encouraged by the committee’s effort to bring much-needed transparency to the CIA’s torture programs, but believes that fundamental reform of oversight mechanisms of U.S. intelligence operations is needed. In response to today’s vote, the Brennan Center released the following statements:
“The committee vote is a welcome step toward transparency,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “But the fact that we still don’t know the truth about the torture program more than a decade later shows how dysfunctional our intelligence oversight system really is. The CIA misled Congress and tried to block the intelligence committee’s access to documents that told the real story. Now, the very same CIA that tried to stonewall oversight will determine what parts of the report to declassify. The committee’s own rules allow it to publicly release classified information if the public interest is strong enough, but its members aren’t willing to stand up to the executive branch.”
“The American people have a right to know what the CIA has done in the name of combating terrorism,” said Mike German, a former FBI agent and Fellow at the Brennan Center. “The president and CIA should move swiftly to declassify this report and Congress should take action to ensure agencies can’t perform unlawful intelligence activities in the future.”
“Congress has repeatedly failed in its duty to watch the intelligence agencies,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The fact that the CIA was able to mislead and obstruct a Congressional investigation into brutal torture programs for so long is a wake-up call for meaningful oversight reform.”
According to officials, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report shows that the CIA manipulated and misrepresented evidence involving secret interrogation programs to make it look like the programs had worked. Officials who have read the report said that it very clearly shows that the CIA’s ability to obtain intelligence leads “had little, if anything, to do with the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’” The report also reveals serious discrepancies between statements made by senior CIA officials and lower level employees about what information was obtained through interrogation programs and when.
Although the report is now with the executive branch for declassification, reports suggest it could be months or longer before parts of it are made public.