by Dan Froomkin
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report will be released “in a matter of days,” a committee staffer tells The Intercept. The report, a review of brutal CIA interrogation methods during the presidency of George W. Bush, has been the subject of a contentious back-and-forth, with U.S. intelligence agencies and the White House on one side pushing for mass redactions in the name of national security and committee staffers on the other arguing that the proposed redactions render the report unintelligible.
Should something emerge, here are some important caveats to keep in mind:
1) You’re not actually reading the torture report. You’re just reading an executive summary. The full Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention program runs upward of 6,000 pages. The executive summary is 480 pages. So you’re missing more than 80 percent of it.
2) The CIA got to cut out parts. The summary has been redacted – ostensibly by the White House, but in practice by officials of the CIA, which, lest we forget, is the agency that is being investigated, that spied on and tried to intimidate the people conducting the investigation, and whose director has engaged in serial deception about the investigation. The original redactions proposed by the White House included eliminating even the use of pseudonyms to let readers keep track of major recurring characters, and appeared intended to make the summary unintelligible.
3) Senate Democrats had their backs to the wall. Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein faced enormous pressure to get the summary out in some form, before the incoming Republican Senate majority could do the White House a solid and squelch it completely.
4) The investigation was extremely narrow in its focus. Committee staffers only looked at what the CIA did in its black sites; whether it misled other officials; and whether it complied with orders. That is somewhat like investigating whether a hit man did the job efficiently and cleaned up nicely.
5) The investigation didn’t examine who gave the CIA its orders, or why. The summary doesn’t assess who told the CIA to torture – despite the abundant evidence that former vice president Dick Cheney and his cabal architected, choreographed and defended its use, with former president George W. Bush’s knowing or unknowing support.