A coalition of civil liberties and open government groups joined The Constitution Project in urging the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to declassify and release its report on the CIA’s treatment of suspected terrorists after 9/11.
In separate letters sent to committee members on February 25, the groups called for the declassification and release of the full report with as few redactions as possible, as well as release of the agency’s response to it. The committee adopted the 6,300-page report in December, 2012, on a bipartisan vote, but so far none of it has been made available to the public.
Not only does the public have a right to know what was done in its name in the aftermath of 9/11, TCP and the open government groups said, but the institutional legitimacy of the CIA depends on it.
“The agency cannot be effective over the long haul if Americans do not trust it, and unjustified secrecy breeds mistrust,” the groups wrote. They noted that excessive government secrecy undermines our constitutionally-established system of checks and balances, and dampens the ability of an informed citizenry to hold government officials accountable.
The human rights and civil liberties groups said that declassifying and releasing the committee’s report – the most comprehensive review to date of the CIA detention and interrogation program based on a thorough review of the classified record – will help “ensure that torture is not used by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government again.” Torture is illegal under U.S. and international law.
The groups pointed out that the Senate Armed Services Committee publicly released its review of Defense Department abuses of suspected terrorists in 2009, which helped the Pentagon “put in place procedures aimed at preventing the same abuses from recurring.”
Last April, TCP’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment released the most comprehensive examination to date of the treatment of suspected terrorists across multiple administrations and multiple geographic theatres. However, that blue-ribbon panel did not have access to classified documents the way the Senate Intelligence Committee’s staff did.
Among the groups joining TCP in signing the open government letter were the Brennan Center for Justice, Federation of American Scientists, the Government Accountability Project and Project on Government Oversight (POGO).
In addition to TCP, human rights and civil liberties groups writing to the committee included the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, the Center for Victims of Torture, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the Open Society Policy Center and Physicians for Human Rights.