Sunday, December 7, 2014

Senate To Release Report on CIA Torture

The Senate Intelligence Committee (headed by Diane Feinstein) heading the investigation on CIA waterboarding (simulated drowning) techniques against suspected terrorists in the post-9/11 era and the CIA have come to a consensus over their dispute over redaction. The report concludes that waterboarding, used against terrorists to extract information, was not proven to have "produced U.S. counter-terrorism breakthroughs that could not have been obtained through non-coercive questioning" (Reuters).

The report covered 20 cases, and the "harsh interrogations were ineffective;" the information learned, in the vast majority of cases, could have been "found using other methods." Specifically, the information obtained that led to the discovery of Osama Bin Laden's compound through harsh interrogation were "not necessary." (LA Times). The report contains "disturbing new details about the CIA's use of such techniques as sleep deprivation, confinement in small spaces, humiliation and the simulated drowning process known as waterboarding" (CBS News).

The White House sent Feinstein a declassified version with 15% redacted, causing Feinstein to quarrel over the obstruction of the "roles of key CIA officers," which she said would prevent the public from learning "how people inside the agency had made crucial decisions" (LA Times). Ultimately, 5% of the report was redacted, but against Feinstein's wishes, the names of agents were blacked out, not replaced with pseudonyms, because of the White House's argument that "identifying the agents, even by a pseudonym, would put them in jeopardy" (LA Times).

Kerry asked for a delay in the release of the report as he believed it would threaten the safety of "American personnel overseas," thus forcing Feinstein into a conundrum, in that releasing it now would cause her to bear the responsibility for the predicted endangerment of Americans abroad, but doing so would risk that Burr, her successor, would "block the report" after taking over in January (LA Times).

Questions for discussion:

1) What effect would releasing the report likely have in the current national and international climate?

2) Should Feinstein release the report now, and run the risk of endangering Americans on foreign soil, or delay the release and risk the blockage of information that provides a record of history that the country needs to learn from to live up to our values? In other words, is ensuring that we release to the public our moments of history which we regret, so that we can learn from it worth the projected risk?


Netta Wang 7 said...

As of now, the report is scheduled to release tomorrow (Tuesday), and I'm honestly not sure whether it is the right choice or not, because I don't really think there is a right answer to it. Currently, Obama's administration has released a statement supporting the release of information, but does add that it must take in account the safety of American hostages and other Americans working internationally (so basically they don't have a good answer for this problem either). I think one option Feinstein should try is to negotiate with Republicans to allow for the release of the statement later. Ultimately, I think it's a matter between valuing truth and honesty and valuing lives, which is an impossible choice to make.

Katie Wysong 6 said...

I tend to lean on the side of transparency. It is important that the American people are aware of the actions and decisions of their government, especially in cases where illegal activities are occurring.
That being said Netta is right that the safety of Americans should be protected. Though this report will have some effect, I think the importance of the truth is more essential.
As for waiting till the new Senate comes in, I think it would be incredibly unlikely for the Republicans to release such a document. And I would not think that they could come up with a agreement for a release under the Republicans.

Catherine van Blommestein said...

Feinstein wants to release the report in its entirety despite the fact that it can put American’s lives in harms way and it will rub salt in the wounds of those affected by 9/11. The CIA may or may not have gone too far in their treatment of detainees in order to get information. I would like to know what other measures could have been taken to successfully get this information without extreme torture. Americans demanded justice from Al Qaeda. The CIA did what they thought was necessary to extract information. If members of the CIA do something wrong it needs to be dealt with internally. Feinstein should be concentrating on figuring out what happened in Benghazi so that we can avoid something like this again and protect Americans. We also need to be looking into stopping the beheadings of Americans by ISIS so we can protect more American lives. We need to put more attention on protecting our Americans, not terrorists.

Christian Carlson said...

I definitely agree with the release of this report, but there really must be a healthy balance of both openness and security. Having heard about the report and looking at some of the things it stated through articles about it, this is undoubtedly rather sensitive information, especially given the general nature of the content at hand. The general public should be able to have access to things like this, as I feel that we are sort of entitled to, but anything potentially threatening to those who could be affected by report should probably be censored. Though we've seen the effect already, given the release, I really feel like it's hard to say right now. As the pages of what is now released are perused over the coming days and weeks, more volatile things could possibly come out. Addressing your second question, it's important to make public and acknowledge our more ignominious history. Even if we choose to continue such actions in the future, which really wouldn't be that great, we still need to be cognizant of what really is going on.

Brian Yee said...

This is rather sensitive information so it should remain classified. I believe in its Americans best interest to protect the people rather than threaten their safety. By disclosing the report, it could jeopardize the safety of Americans. In my opinion, safety is more important than value. While it is important information that can provide value to our history, there's a certain limit to the cost of how it can affect American lives. Possibly, the report could use more time to be revised as to find a balance in providing enough information to the public, while adding value to its history, and not threatening American security.