US Senate panel votes to release CIA interrogation files
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The influential Senate Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to release key parts of a classified report on the CIA's interrogation programme, with US President Barack Obama urging the findings to be made public.
The 6,300-page report on the programme – which dates from the administration of former president George W. Bush and which has sparked tension between the Central Intelligence Agency and its congressional overseers – details one of the most unsavoury periods in the CIA's recent history.
"The purpose of this review was to uncover the facts behind this secret programme, and the results were shocking," Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the intelligence committee, said after the 11-3 vote.
"The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation. It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen," she said.
The vote allows Feinstein to send the 400-page executive summary and key recommendations to the White House, which has said that Obama wants the declassification "completed as expeditiously as possible".
"Having prohibited these practices upon taking office, the president believes that bringing this programme into the light will help the American people understand what happened in the past and can help guide us as we move forward, so that no administration contemplates such a programme in the future," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
The report found that the CIA misled the government and the public for years about parts of the programme and overstated the significance of the intelligence gleaned from the enhanced interrogation techniques used on detainees at secret CIA "black sites" outside the United States, officials familiar with the report told The Washington Post.
More than 100 detainees were subjected to interrogation under the programme.
Feinstein said she hoped their would be "as few as possible" redactions in the report and predicted the process would take at least a month.
The CIA will lead the declassification review.
But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has urged Obama not to let the same agency that used the abusive interrogation methods from deciding on how to redact the report.
"The CIA should not be handed a blackout pen to hide its use of torture or the lies it told to keep the torture programme going," the ACLU said.
'Waste of time,' say Republicans
Senator Saxby Chambliss, the committee's top Republican, criticised the exhaustive investigation as a "waste of time".
But he reluctantly voted to declassify parts of it so that Americans can assess the CIA programme for themselves.
"The general public has the right to now know what was done and what's in the report," Chambliss told reporters, adding: "We need to get this behind us."
Three of the panel's seven Republicans voted against releasing the report, including Senators Marco Rubio and Jim Risch, who blasted the report as an expensive move that could cause a diplomatic uproar if published and possibly lead to new fatalities.
Releasing it ignores warnings from the State Department and US allies that declassification "could endanger the lives of American diplomats and citizens overseas and jeopardise US relations with other countries", Rubio and Risch said in a statement.
The detention and interrogation programme – begun shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States – used "enhanced interrogation techniques" including waterboarding, which Obama and others have likened to torture.
Senate staffers spent five years reviewing more than six million pages of documents to compile what became one of the most exhaustive examples of congressional oversight in US history.
The vote earned praise from rights groups keen on bringing the full report to light and end what Human Rights First called "the false debate about the legitimacy and efficacy of cruelty".
"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," said Human Rights First president Elisa Massimino.
"This report will show that assertion to be false."
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)