The details of a long-awaited report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture against suspected terrorists shocked lawmakers and the public alike. President Barack Obama described the report as “troubling.” He said the “harsh methods” employed by the CIA to extract information from prisoners “were not only inconsistent with our values as a nation, [they] did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts.”
Among other things, the document, released Tuesday, revealed that the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” were much more brutal than previously thought and that the agency continuously misled lawmakers about its methods. According to the report, the agency’s tactics included depriving some detainees of sleep for over a week, waterboarding prisoners to the point of “convulsions” and “vomiting” and physically abusing others.
“These techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners,” Obama said. “That is why I will continue to use my authority as president to make sure we never resort to those methods again.”
The findings were the result of a five-year investigation started in 2009 by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees U.S. intelligence operations. U.S. lawmakers, human rights advocates and CIA officials on Tuesday reacted to the release of the torture report with a mix of disgust and anger.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.: “The revelations contained in this report are truly horrifying, and I appreciate my colleagues’ work to make sure the American people finally know the truth. Torturing people not only violates our laws, it violates our country’s most basic values. This dark period in our history and the grave errors in judgment made by key leaders in our government must never be repeated.”
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., a former member of the Intelligence Committee: “After years of effort and millions of documents reviewed, the Senate report at last lays out in painstaking detail how the CIA under President Bush and Vice President Cheney turned down the dark path to torture, and then to cover its tracks misled Congress and executive officials about the efficacy of the torture program. These are hard facts to face as Americans, but it’s important that the facts be known. Chairman Feinstein and our Intelligence Committee staff deserve our country's deep appreciation for their extraordinary efforts.”
U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: “The hallmark of a free society is open and transparent government, but certain disclosures must be carefully weighed against the potential damage to the national security interests of the United States and the security of the men and women who serve our country overseas. This report contains no recommendations and offers only an unconstructive, partisan account of the last decade’s counterterrorism efforts. It is now time for the Senate Intelligence Committee to move past this long-settled issue and focus on the vitally important national security challenges currently facing our country.”
Joint statement from U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., and U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: “As we have both stated before, we are opposed to this study and believe it will present serious consequences for U.S. national security. Regardless of what one’s opinions may be on these issues, the study by Senate Democrats is an ideologically motivated and distorted recounting of historical events. The fact that the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program developed significant intelligence that helped us identify and capture important al-Qa’ida terrorists, disrupt their ongoing plotting, and take down Usama Bin Ladin is incontrovertible. Claims included in this report that assert the contrary are simply wrong.”
U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: “I am deeply disturbed by the implications of the study for the committee’s ability to discharge its oversight responsibility. The core of the oversight function rests in large part upon the interaction of our committee with representatives of the various intelligence agencies, most particularly the CIA. Because it appears from the study that the committee was continuously misled as to virtually all aspects of this program, it naturally raises the extremely troubling question as to whether we can trust the representations of the agency in connection with difficult or sensitive issues in the future. If our principal oversight approach is based on frank and open communication with the CIA’s leadership, and we cannot fully rely upon the answers we receive, then the entire oversight function is compromised.”
Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan: “We acknowledge that the detention and interrogation program had shortcomings and that the agency made mistakes...[but] our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom [enhanced interrogation techniques] were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives.”
American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero: “This is a shocking report, and it is impossible to read it without feeling immense outrage that our government engaged in these terrible crimes. This report definitively drags into the light the horrific details of illegal torture, details that both the Bush and Obama administrations have worked hard to sweep under the rug. The government officials who authorized illegal activity need to be held accountable. The administration’s current position – doing absolutely nothing – is tantamount to issuing tacit pardons. Tacit pardons are worse than formal ones because they undermine the rule of law. The CIA’s wrongful acts violated basic human rights, served as a huge recruiting tool for our enemies, and alienated allies world-wide. Our response to the damning evidence in this report will define us as a nation.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry: "I want to underscore that while it's uncomfortable and unpleasant to re-examine this period, it's important that this period not define the intelligence community in anyone's minds. Every single day, the State Department and our diplomats and their families are safer because of the men and women of the CIA and the Intelligence Community. They sign up to serve their country the same way our diplomats and our military do. They risk their lives to keep us safe and strengthen America's foreign policy and national security. The awful facts of this report do not represent who they are, period. That context is also important to how we understand history.”
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: “The implications of this report on torture are profound – not only is torture wrong, but it doesn’t work. The only way we can put this episode in the past is to come to terms with what happened and commit to ensuring it will never happen again.”