Interrogators: Senate Intelligence Committee Should Question Brennan on Torture

Washington, DC – Twelve of the nation’s most respected former interrogators sent a public letter to members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence urging them to question CIA Director Nominee John Brennan about torture.

Specifically, the group recommends that Brennan be asked whether he supports the public release, with as few redactions as possible, of the committee’s recently adopted report about CIA detention and interrogation techniques used after 9/11. Just this week, Senate intelligence committee member Senator Mark Udall (D-NM), who in a joint letter with Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) had asked Brennan to review the committee’s findings, issued a press release saying that he is “deeply disappointed” that Brennan was not prepared to discuss the report during a private meeting ahead of next week’s confirmation hearing.

“We have spent our careers interrogating high value suspects,” yesterday’s letter from the interrogators noted. “We know from experience that torture is unreliable, unlawful, and un-American. But, does Mr. Brennan?”

Mr. Brennan was Deputy Executive Director of the CIA from 2001-2003 when the Bush administration adopted torture as an interrogation tactic. In December 2012, the Senate Intelligence Committee adopted a 6,000+ page CIA Torture report that, if released to the public, will formally set the record straight on the role that torture played in gaining actionable intelligence and impacting U.S. national security interests. High-ranking officials, including current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) continue to debunk claims made by books and movies, including the Academy Award-nominated film Zero Dark Thirty, that torture provided any actionable intelligence that led to Osama bin Laden.

The interrogators also asked the committee to explore if Brennan plans to abide by the principles to which these interrogators subscribe, including:

  1. Non-coercive, traditional, rapport-based interviewing approaches provide the best possibility for obtaining accurate and complete intelligence.
  2. Torture and other inhumane and abusive interview techniques are unlawful, ineffective and counterproductive.
  3. The use of torture and other inhumane and abusive treatment results in false and misleading information, loss of critical intelligence, and has caused serious damage to the reputation and standing of the United States. The use of such techniques also facilitates enemy recruitment, misdirects or wastes scarce resources, and deprives the United States of the standing to demand humane treatment of captured Americans.
  4. There must be a single well-defined standard of conduct, as in the Army Field Manual, to govern the detention and interrogation of people anywhere in U.S. custody across all U.S. agencies.
  5. There is no conflict between adhering to our nation’s essential values, including respect for inherent human dignity, and our ability to obtain the information we need to protect the nation.

“We acknowledge Mr. Brennan’s significant contributions to our nation’s defense,” concluded the letter. “But given that Mr. Brennan faced significant opposition to his nomination to become CIA Director in 2008 and that the questions raised then have not been answered fully, we respectfully recommend that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence ask Mr. Brennan questions about his views on torture to give the American public full confidence in the nominee.”


Published on February 1, 2013


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