By Joseph Zabel
Law and Security Program
At a rule of law panel at last week’s Aspen Security Forum, Former Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson said the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,000 plus page study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation of detainees after 9/11 should be declassified and released to the fullest extent. Responding to a question posed by Human Rights First’s Dixon Osburn, Johnson said: “[W]e ought to declassify as much of it as we can.”
The report has set off a national debate about the CIA’s covert use of torture. Senators familiar with the report say it shows that torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment were more widespread than previously thought, and did not lead to significant intelligence. Moreover, the report allegedly shows that the CIA misled both Congress and the White House about the program.
Johnson criticized the legal review that authorized the enhanced interrogation techniques, and referred to how an analogous review by the Senate Armed Services Committee of the DoD’s mistreatment of detainees was helpful to him. Johnson said, “I think that the report that was done by the Senate Armed Services Committee is a very valuable, important report. I personally had a number of takeaways from it…”
The Senate Intelligence Committee study has languished since the committee voted to adopt the report last December. Public reports suggest that the CIA opposes the study, and provided edits and comments on the study back to the committee last month.
A New York Times story reports, though, that a compromise for releasing the torture report is in the works. According to the Times, the Senate Intelligence Committee would declassify the executive summary of the report along with the CIA’s comments and a minority rebuttal.
The Committee’s top Republican, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, has reportedly agreed.
Torture is too important an issue to keep in the dark. While making public the report’s executive summary is a good first step, the CIA and White House should work with the committee to declassify the whole report, with the appropriate redactions, and as soon as possible.