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Intelligence Committee Report Summary Declassified: Torture Did Not Improve National Security

A highly controversial over 500-page executive summary detailing the CIA’s interrogation practices following September 11, 2001, was released to the public on Tuesday. The summary covers a 6,000-page, $40 million report which remains classified and was commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee, headed by California U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D).

It alleges that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) repeatedly lied about the effectiveness and nature of interrogation practices such as waterboarding and that the agency acted with flagrant disregard for the law with respect to the treatment of detainees suspected of terrorism.

Ahead of its release, members of the intelligence community spoke out arguing the allegations of legal misconduct weren’t true and releasing such a report would endanger U.S. lives abroad. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden (2006-2009) appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation with Bob Orr on Sunday, and made these comments:

“To say that we relentlessly over an expanded period of time lied to everyone about a program that wasn’t doing any good, that beggars the imagination.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney also defended the program in an interview with the New York Times, saying the use of torture was “[a]bsolutely totally justified.”

The executive summary outlines 20 key findings which cast a stark contrast to Hayden and Cheney’s accounts, stating:

“While being subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and afterwards, multiple CIA detainees fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence… The CIA represented to the White House, the National Security Council, the Department of Justice, the CIA Office of Inspector General, the Congress, and the public that the best measure of effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was examples of specific terrorist plots “thwarted” and specific terrorists captured as a result of the use of the techniques.”

The report also found that the CIA misrepresented the effectiveness and nature of such techniques:

“In some cases, there was no relationship between the cited counterterrorism success and any information provided by detainees during or after the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques… The examples provided by the CIA included numerous factual inaccuracies.”

The interrogation program in question began shortly following the September 11 attacks and was conceived under then-CIA Director George Tenet. Tenet was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997 and reappointed by President George W. Bush.

Though he has been largely absent from the public eye since he retired as CIA director in 2004, Tenet did appear in a 60 Minutes interview with Scott Pelley in 2007 where he defended the controversial program saying, “We don’t torture people.”

“Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through: The palpable fear that we felt on the basis of that fact that there was so much we did not know. I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots,” he added.

Proponents of the report, like Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.), argue it is vital to returning integrity to the U.S. system of checks and balances. He said,

“The release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program is an historic victory for our nation, the Constitution, and our system of checks and balances. This study ensures that the truth about the CIA’s brutal torture program finally comes out and that the agency can learn from its repeated missteps and start to restore its integrity.”

U.S. embassies and military installations overseas are now on high alert with the expectation of significant international fallout.

Read the full executive summary on the senate intelligence committee’s website.

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