WASHINGTON – The release Tuesday of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the use of torture by the CIA came after months of wrangling, pressure and strategizing. The White House and Secretary of State John Kerry recently advocated delaying the report, which is likely to reignite both critics and defenders of the practice of torture.
The road to release the report has been littered with accusations of constitutional violations, lawsuits and negotiations over redactions. The investigation, which was spearheaded by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., began in 2009. The committee staff reviewed thousands of pages of emails, documents and diplomatic cables that were related to the use of torture in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The report is expected to make the case that interrogation methods like waterboarding that were used during the Bush administration failed to provide valuable intelligence. While interrogation methods like waterboarding have since been abandoned, emotions remain high both at home and abroad about their usage. Early reports indicate the report will include graphic details about sexual threats and other previously undisclosed tactics that were used against enemy combatants, Reuters reported.
In March, Feinstein took to the Senate floor to accuse the CIA of hacking into Senate computers that were being used to compile the report. She said it violated an agreement with her committee that the CIA wouldn’t interfere into their investigation.
"I have grave concerns that the CIA search may well have violated the separation-of-powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the speech and debate clause," Feinstein said at the time. "It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function."
CIA Director John Brennan ultimately apologized for the search of the Senate computers, saying in July that five employees did improperly access Senate computers. The CIA launched an internal investigation into the searches.
This summer, months of negotiations continued over how much of the report should be redacted before it was released publicly. Feinstein and the White House went back and forth over which information was necessary to support the report’s claim that the use of torture was ineffective. The administration pushed for more redactions, while Feinstein argued that more of it should be public.
In August, Feinstein sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder arguing they should not comply with a public information request lawsuit from a reporter to make the executive summary of the report public because her committee completed negotiations. She said that with the large amounts of redactions, the report told an incomplete story.
Now the clock is ticking for Feinstein. Democrats will lose control of the Senate in January, and she will lose the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee. This is the last week of session for Congress in 2014, and her last chance to make the report public.
But even in the final hours, there was an effort to further delay the release of the report. Kerry called Feinstein this weekend to ask for additional delay. He argued that the report could spark violence in the Middle East over the previous use of torture. Kerry, a former senator who chaired the Foreign Relations Committee during his tenure, said there was some concern about the safety of diplomats traveling on American business.
But that plea seems to have not gotten very far. The White House acknowledged Monday that the report was going to be released the next day.
“The administration strongly supports the release of this declassified summary of the report,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.