For more than a year, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA have been engaged in a tug of war over the release of the so-called torture report.
Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, says the $40 million, 6,000-page report demonstrates that CIA treatment of detainees was all but useless in terms of gathering actionable intelligence.
For its part, the CIA says the classified committee report contains significant errors and that no one at the agency was interviewed by Senate investigators.
A CIA spokesman points out that in any event, President Obama outlawed waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics in 2009.
That status quo is pretty much where things stand.
Until this week, at least, when Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall insisted the White House throw its weight behind releasing the material.
“I strongly believe that the only way to correct the inaccurate information in the public record on this program is through the sunlight of declassification,” Udall said.
The central issue is whether tactics such as long-term sleep deprivation and simulated drowning of detainees helped get information to prevent terrorist attacks — and whether the long-awaited Senate Intelligence study can provide a definitive answer to that question.
New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich said he’s tired of the issue being politicized.
“Madame Chairman, I am convinced now more than ever that we need to declassify the full report so that those with a political agenda can no longer manipulate public opinion,” Heinrich said.
But veterans of the intelligence community say everyone in this story has some kind of political agenda.
There are backstage fights over errors in the Senate report and private disagreements about whether the committee and the CIA have a deal to release the material.
This week, Udall dropped a new detail. He said the CIA conducted its own review of interrogation and detention, a secret study that he says would dovetail with the committee findings.
“And if this is true, it raises fundamental questions about why a review the CIA conducted internally years ago, and never provided to the committee, is so different from the CIA’s formal written response to the committee’s study,” he said. “I think you can see the disconnect there.”
The CIA says it’s aware of the committee’s request for that information and will respond appropriately.
Earlier this year, during his confirmation hearing, CIA director nominee John Brennan promised to take a close look at the interrogation study and its possible release.
Brennan said the agency would learn from its mistakes after Sept. 11 and not repeat them.
“There clearly were a number of things, many things, that I read in that report that were very concerning and disturbing to me and ones that I would want to look into immediately if I were to be confirmed as CIA director,” Brennan said. “[Things that] talked about mismanagement of the program, misrepresentations of the information, providing inaccurate information.”
The Senate confirmed Brennan, but then nothing else happened.
A CIA spokesman said the agency is working with the Intelligence Committee to correct the report and eventually to make part of it public.
But that could take time, since the politically divided Senate panel needs to vote on the report. And on top of that, the CIA has to agree to declassify what’s secret.