Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today expressed alarm over reports that the Trump Administration has begun to return copies of the Senate intelligence committee’s report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. If true, the move would be a significant setback to efforts to shine a light on one of the darkest chapters in recent American history.
“The Senate torture report should not be returned, but preserved and thoroughly studied, so we can learn lessons from this dark period and ensure it is never repeated,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “The report showed that the CIA’s program was far more brutal and widespread than previously believed and revealed that the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ did not produce the critical intelligence gains that had been claimed.”
A redacted version of the report’s executive summary was released in December 2014. Then-Chairman of the intelligence committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), sent the full 6,963-page report to President Obama and the heads of relevant executive branch agencies, urging them to learn from the report and “to help make sure that this experience is never repeated.” In early 2015 Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) asked the executive branch to return copies of the report when he became Chairman of the committee. In December of last year, the Obama Administration decided to archive a copy of the report. That copy, however, will not be available for public view for 12 years.
The report is the result of an investigation launched with bipartisan support, and was both adopted and declassified in separate bipartisan votes in the Senate intelligence committee. The findings in the report demonstrated significant institutional and operational failures across multiple agencies and that the CIA systematically misled the administration and Congress about the efficacy of the program.
In the wake of the report’s release, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Feinstein sponsored landmark anti-torture legislation that reinforces the United States’ ban on the use of torture, including waterboarding and other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The legislation passed the Senate with the support of a broad bipartisan majority, which included the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence, armed services, homeland security, foreign relations, and judiciary committees.
Earlier this year 176 of the nation’s most respected retired military leaders sent a letter to then-President-elect Trump urging him to reject the use of torture. The letter, which includes 33 four-star generals and admirals, highlighted the United States’ historic bipartisan opposition to torture and called on President-elect Trump to continue this legacy.
“National security experts, intelligence professionals, and military leaders have long-advocated against the use of torture as it is illegal, immoral, and counterproductive,” said Wala. “We must learn the lessons of our nation’s failed experiment with torture, and that is impossible to do if our leaders don’t even have the torture report to read. The report should ultimately be declassified and released, not hidden away in some congressional safe.”