Washington, D.C. – 20 of the nation’s most respected retired admirals and generals today urged President Obama to ensure the unhindered release of key portions from the Senate Intelligence Committee report on post-9/11 CIA torture tactics. The call came in a letter highlighting attempts by former and current government employees to defend the so-called “enhanced interrogation” program by attacking the report.
“There is no substitute for leadership from the top on an issue like this. You have set the direction for your administration that torture is unacceptable. But for that leadership to have a lasting impact on the direction of our country, beyond your administration, you must act to ensure that Americans learn the right lessons from our past,” wrote the admirals and generals. “We urge you to make clear in no uncertain terms that you expect CIA Director John Brennan to support an expansive declassification of the report and an honest reckoning with its findings.”
The letter comes as the White House is poised to send the Senate Intelligence Committee its response to the report. The committee is expected to then release the report before the end of August.
The 600-page executive summary promises to provide details on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” practices, setting the record straight on the use of torture and shedding light on the claims that torture played a significant role in gaining actionable intelligence post 9/11. In April of this year, following a concerted campaign led by Human Rights First, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 11-3 to declassify the report and put an end to years of speculation and mistruths.
Since the Senate Intelligence Committee’s declassification vote, former and current CIA employees – including former CIA director George Tenet and current CIA Director John Brennan – have worked to discredit the report and are reportedly coordinating a response to the document’s release. Just yesterday, however, the CIA acknowledged that it inappropriately accessed a computer network used by the intelligence committee during its review of the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program, further evidence that the agency has consistently misled Congress, the White House, and the Department of Justice about its interrogation program.
“The stakes are too high to allow the intelligence community to circle the wagons and launch a concerted campaign to undermine the report’s credibility,” stated the admirals and generals. “Ultimately, an American public that understands the high costs of torture is the best guarantee against a future president rescinding your executive order and treating torture as a viable policy option.”
Today’s signatories are members of a larger nonpartisan group of retired generals and admirals who work with Human Rights First to speak out against torture and to ensure that U.S. policy reflects a single standard of prisoner treatment consistent with the Geneva Conventions. The group, including members who stood with President Obama in the Oval Office as he signed his executive order banning torture, has voiced strong support for declassification of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report. They also worked closely with Senator John McCain in 2005 to pass the Detainee Treatment Act that reinforced the ban on torture and other cruel and degrading treatment, and established the Army Field Manual as the single standard of interrogation for all prisoners in DOD custody. In 2008 they shared their insights with eight presidential candidates from both parties that torture does immense harm to the reputation of the United States, and undermines efforts to combat terrorism.