CIA Attempts to Block Release of Torture Report
by Chris George*, 6/17/2009
The Central Intelligence Agency is attempting to prevent the Obama administration from releasing a May 2004 Inspector General's report describing and evaluating the agency's treatment of detainees and interrogation practices, according to today's Washington Post. A redacted version of about 12 paragraphs of text was released in May 2008 as a result of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit. The Obama administration promised a review of the IG report last month after the ACLU appealed the decision in that case.
The complete report is said to be over 100 pages long, in addition to six appendices of undisclosed length. It was compiled over the course of a year long investigation, comprising of 100 interviews and the review of video of 92 interrogations, tapes that the CIA ultimately destroyed. Visits were also made to secret CIA prisons, the only time non-interrogators were permitted to witness interrogations live. When the report was released, interrogations were briefly suspended, pending a new memo from the Office of Legal Counsel and written rebuttals from the CIA.
A summary of the report was part of a declassified Justice Department memo, which suggested that "its authors concluded that some useful information was produced by the CIA program but that 'it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks...'" The document also suggested that the techniques used did constitute torture and were illegal.
Intelligence officials with knowlege of the report's contents defend the censoring of the document, claiming that the bulk of the information contained therein is sensitive. Others are more skeptical: "Some former agency officials said that CIA insiders are fighting a rear-guard action to prevent disclosures that could embarrass the agency and lead to new calls for a 'truth commission' to investigate the Bush administration's policies." They claim that most of the report could be released, and would reveal little that had not already come out in the release of the OLC torture memos and the leak of the 2005 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
When President Obama decided to release the OLC memos two months ago, he commented that "withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that havew been in the public domain for some time. This could contribute to an inaccurate accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflanmmatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States." The same logic stands in this situation. President Obama should stand by his opposition to torture, ensure that this report is released, and permit the American people to have a full account of what was done in their name.