An earlier blog post detailed the growing chorus of individuals and organizations from across the political spectrum urging the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to declassify and release to the public its 6,000-plus page report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The agency has argued repeatedly that the study contains “significant errors,” and is reportedly doing all it can to delay release.
Yesterday’s rare open hearing in the Committee, to consider the nomination of Caroline Krass to become CIA General Counsel, shed some important new light on the nature and legitimacy of disputes between the Committee and CIA over the SSCI report. To my mind, there were two highlights and related takeaways.
- Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) met head-on the narrative the agency has been spinning about the SSCI report’s accuracy. According to both, the claim that the SSCI report contains “significant errors” is simply wrong (and, again, perhaps at least in part a product of a failure at the CIA to rigorously review the SSCI report). More specifically, Senator Heinrich said that there was only “one instance in which the CIA pointed out a factual error” in the report, and that the error was minor and has been corrected. The remaining disagreements, he said, went to interpretations and conclusions, but they proceeded from an agreed-upon factual record.
- Senator Udall made reference to an internal CIA review of the post 9/11 detention and interrogation program, initiated by former director Leon Panetta, that the Committee has requested but not yet received (apparently not the only document that the CIA is “slow walking”, as Senator Heinrich put it). Senator Udall understands that the Panetta report is consistent with the SSCI report but conflicts with the CIA’s official response. If true, that would be, in the words of Senator Udall, “amazing.”
- Clarification that the Committee and agency aren’t actually at loggerheads over a substantial portion of the underlying facts is important, and should resolve any concern that releasing the report might not better inform a public debate that’s currently driven by pop culture.
- The Panetta report should be declassified and released along with the SSCI report and agency response.
The revelation of the existence of this new internal report only reinforces our earlier conclusion: if there are disputes between the Committee and CIA about the SSCI report’s content that cannot be resolved, those differences don’t justify continued secrecy. Senator Udall is right: the only way to set the record straight is through “the sunlight of declassification.”
The views expressed in this blog post are not necessarily those of TCP, its committees, or boards.