The brutal details of the CIA’s secret interrogation methods described in a newly-issued report by a US Senate committee on Tuesday, triggered Republican lawmakers and CIA reaction against the document’s findings, insisting that the detention and rendition program produced clear results that helped to thwart attacks on US citizens and assets.
In a statement, the CIA’s current director, John Brennan, admitted that the program had “shortcomings” and that “the agency made mistakes,” arguing that it had been unprepared for the scale of the interrogation and detention program that rose in the wake of the September 11 attacks on US soil.
But Brennan, considered an ally of current US President Barack Obama, lashed out at the reports’ authors, saying the information produced through the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or EITs — the agency’s preferred terminology when discussing torture — helped to avert terrorist attacks against the United States. He also refused to accept another major finding of the 40 million dollars US Senate report, saying CIA officials did not intentionally mislead officials and the US Congress.
“Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives,” Brennan said. “The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qaeda and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day.”
Brennan cited one case, that of Ammar al-Baluchi, a suspected terrorist who was tortured and revealed the identity of a courier for the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.i
In Washington, reaction to the report was split for the most part along ideological lines.
Two Republican lawmakers, Senators Marco Rubio and Jim Risch, quickly issued a statement calling the publication of the report’s summary “reckless and irresponsible.”
The 500-plus page report that the Intelligence Committee has prepared for release, a summary of a much more detailed, 6,000-page narrative which will remain secret, includes a 200-page narrative of the interrogation program’s history and 20 case studies of the interrogations of specific detainees. Around six million documents were reportedly consulted prior to publication.
Republicans were led in their criticism by the GOP’s leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell and Senator Saxby Chambliss, the party’s highest-ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Amid an insistence that the report was partisan and being pushed by Democrats in order to tar the legacy of then-president George W. Bush, Chambliss and McConnell backed Brennan’s position that information gleamed through torture had been responsible for leading the US to finding bin Laden.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also weighed in to back the report.
“Today, for the first time, the American people are going to learn the full truth about torture that took place under the CIA during the Bush administration,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “The only way our country can put this episode in the past is to confront what happened.”
“Not only is torture wrong but it doesn’t work,” said Reid. He said torture “got us nothing except a bad name.”