Aided by numerous leaks by Democratic members and staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, mainstream media are planning a nostalgic trip back to the Bush-bashing days of the 2000s with today’s release of declassified parts of a Senate report on the Bush-era enhanced-interrogation program, a CIA counterterrorism initiative that its critics claim included torture.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has released a 499-page declassified executive summary of the still-classified 6,700-page report. Declassified versions of a CIA rebuttal and additional Democratic and Republican views reportedly also will be released today.
This investigation marks a new low for congressional oversight of intelligence because of its naked partisanship and refusal to consider all relevant evidence. The report was written entirely by the committee’s Democratic staff. The investigation included no interviews — it is based only on a review of documents. Because the report lacks Republican co-authors or interviews of people who ran the enhanced-interrogation program, it has no credibility and amounts to a five-year, $50 million Democrat cherry-picking exercise to investigate the Bush administration.
This didn’t have to happen. There are congressional Republicans who have problems with the enhanced-interrogation program and wanted an honest, bipartisan assessment of it. This is why all but one Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to approve the probe in March 2009. However, all of the committee’s GOP members withdrew their support six months later when it became clear that this inquiry would be a witch hunt against the Bush administration and the CIA and not a balanced, bipartisan investigation.
And what will this report tell us that we don’t already know? New details about enhanced-interrogation techniques and Democratic objections to them won’t be news. According to press leaks about the report, it will claim the program was poorly run and that CIA personnel exceeded their legal authority in running the program and lied about it to Congress and the White House. Such charges are hard to take seriously, because CIA officers accused in the report of improper and illegal activities were not interviewed by the committee’s staff investigators. Most of them were not even allowed to read the report — that privilege was limited to former CIA directors and deputy directors, and they were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements by the committee before they were given access to it.
The report will dispute that the enhanced-interrogation program produced useful intelligence. However, such a finding isn’t credible, since it is written by Democratic staff and reflects a partisan position long held by Democrats.
There are many former Bush-administration and CIA officials who claim that the enhanced-interrogation program was effective, provided crucial counterterrorism intelligence, and was conducted entirely within the law. These officials also claim that Democratic members of the House and Senate intelligence committees were fully briefed on the program and supported it until it became politically useful to condemn it. Former CIA official Jose Rodriguez, who ran the enhanced-interrogation program, recently wrote a compelling Washington Post op-ed explaining these points.
I’m on both sides of this issue. I want to live in a society where nobody hurts anybody, and each person wants to do more for others than they do for themselves. That hasn’t happened yet.
I remember one story where a soldier was captured, but we captured one of theirs too. An officer asked the prisoner where his buddies had taken our guy. The prisoner wouldn’t talk. The officer took his gun and shot him in the leg, and told him if he didn’t talk, he would kill him. The guy talked, our guys went and got our guy back. If I would have to say if this officer would be charged with a crime, I would say no, and I would ask the soldier that was rescued if he agrees.
To those who don’t want ANY TORTURE OF ANY TYPE, I ask a simple question: If the mob, or a gang, or a terrorist organization has kidnapped a member of your family, and the cops have captured one of their members, and they ask you how far do you want them to go to get the person to talk, what would you say?