A year ago today Senator Diane Feinstein took to the Senate floor to make a shocking announcement: the CIA had hacked into computers used by Senate intelligence committee staff as they investigated the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. But an internal CIA review found that Brennan knew about the “improper access.” Brennan later apologized for the breach, though no one has been reprimanded to date.
In December, when the report’s executive summary came out, it became clear why the CIA had gone to such lengths to try to deter oversight. The report showed that the CIA’s interrogations were more brutal and less effective than the agency had led Congress and the White House to believe. Waterboarding, horrific in itself, was the least of it. Accounts of sexual abuse and homicide shocked the conscience. What’s more, these tactics lead to zero significant unique intelligence or thwarted attacks.
Torture proponents and their allies were quick to paint the report as partisan, even though it received bipartisan support on all major committee votes. But even the CIA’s response and the committee’s minority report still acknowledge disturbing mismanagement and lack of accountability.
While torture has long been illegal, Bush administration lawyers exploited soft spots in the law to give the CIA program the veneer of legitimacy. We need a new legislative ban on torture to close the door for any future administration tempted to resort to abusive interrogations.
Senator Feinstein is expected to introduce such a bill this spring. Hopefully a year from now the topic will be settled for good.