Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today welcomed the Senate intelligence committee’s vote to declassify and release the findings, conclusions, and executive summary of its 6,300-plus page report detailing facts about the CIA torture program. The bipartisan vote shifts the burden to the White House to declassify the report, which will set the record straight about torture and put an end to years of speculation and mistruths.
“The decision to embrace torture rested on the assertion that waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and other abuses were effective in gaining intelligence necessary to save American lives. This report will show that assertion to be false,” said Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “Today’s vote to allow public scrutiny of the facts is a critical step towards finally ending the false debate about the legitimacy and efficacy of cruelty,” she added. “A healthy democracy examines its past and learns from it. Thanks to the committee’s tenacity, we are now on the road to do that.”
In December 2012, the Senate intelligence committee’s report was adopted by a bipartisan vote of nine to six. Today’s vote to release the executive summary, findings, and conclusions to the public promises to set the record straight on erroneous claims that torture played a significant role in gaining actionable intelligence, such as the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the intelligence committee, has denied that torture or other abusive interrogation techniques played any such role in that operation. Another reported finding is that the CIA systematically misled Congress, the Justice Department, and the White House about the torture program and what results it was producing.
“Senator Feinstein deserves credit, both for leading this painstaking investigation of the CIA program, based on a review of more than 6 million pages of official records, and for her tenacity in ensuring that the American people will have the opportunity to learn from it,” said Massimino. “She and the other senators on the committee who voted to declassify the report have done an important service to our country.”
The report will now go to the White House, where President Obama has stated that he unequivocally supports its public release. Human Rights First urges the president to direct his staff to lead the declassification process, rather than deferring to the CIA.
“Even with the best of intentions, the CIA has an inherent conflict of interest and should not have the final word about what information in the report the American people are permitted to see,” noted Massimino. “President Obama should lead this process and fulfill the commitment he made to shed light on this program so that we can learn from it, and never repeat it.”