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Senate Finds CIA Illegally Interrogated Terror Suspects After Sept. 11

By Ali Watkins, Marisa Taylor and David Lightman, McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — CIA officers subjected some terrorism suspects it held after the Sept. 11 attacks to interrogation methods that were not approved by either the Justice Department or their own headquarters and illegally detained 26 of the 119 in CIA custody, the Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded in its still-secret report, McClatchy has learned.

The spy agency program’s reliance on brutal techniques — much more abusive than previously known — and its failure to gather valuable information from the detainees harmed the United States’ credibility internationally, according to the committee’s findings in its scathing 6,300-page report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention program.

The agency also repeatedly misled the Justice Department while stymieing Congress’ and the White House’s efforts to oversee the secret and now-defunct program, McClatchy has learned.

In all, the committee came to 20 conclusions about the CIA’s harsh interrogation tactics after spending six years and $40 million evaluating the controversial program. Its report is expected to be sent Thursday to the White House and CIA for eventual public release.

The committee’s other findings included:

—Critics inside the agency were cut out of the debate over the program or ignored, and the news media were manipulated with leaks that tended to blunt criticism of the agency.

—While the CIA’s high-level officials mismanaged the program, interrogators who crossed the line into abusive behavior went unpunished.

—Even six months after the spy agency received the legal authority to proceed, its officers remained unprepared for interrogating detainees.

The committee voted 11-3 on Thursday to recommend that the key findings and a summary of the report be declassified. The document now goes to President Barack Obama, who’s said he supports declassifying the findings. Most of the report and the underlying CIA documents might remain secret, however.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama “would expect that the actions that are necessary to declassify a document like that be conducted in all due haste, and I think he would make that clear to the agencies involved in that effort and the individuals involved in that effort.”

The bipartisan vote masked deep divisions between Democratic and Republican members of the committee. While both wanted the material declassified, they were at odds over the value of the material. The CIA has rejected some of the findings and has written a still-secret rebuttal.

“This report is totally biased,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), said Republicans were in “opposition to the content” and would write a separate reaction.

Republicans wouldn’t discuss the nature of their objections, but they agreed with Coburn, who said, “It’s not an accurate representation of the facts.”

He charged: “There’s no context, and without context you don’t get an accurate assessment of what’s happening. It doesn’t mean that everything they did was right.”

Republicans also were upset at how the report was written and researched. Republican committee staffers weren’t consulted and key officials were not interviewed.

“This was not produced in a bipartisan fashion. That’s a weakness of the report,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Relying only on documents, she said, “can’t tell the whole story.”

The question remained how much of the secret report would be divulged because the White House and the CIA might decide to release or withhold different portions. It’s also unclear how long the final decision would take, with some experts predicting months.

In March, McClatchy reported that the CIA Inspector General’s Office had asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations that the CIA had monitored the committee staff’s work.

cliff1066 via Flickr

CIA ‘Misled Public About Interrogation Techniques’

Washington (AFP) — The CIA misled the government and the public about parts of its interrogation program for years, the Washington Post said Tuesday, quoting a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Specifically, the U.S. agency hid details about the severity of its methods, overstated the significance of plots and prisoners and took credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact provided before they were subjected to harsh techniques, the Post said, quoting officials who have seen the 6,300-page report.

It was constructed with detailed chronologies of dozens of CIA detainees.

The paper said the report describes a long-standing pattern of unsubstantiated claims the CIA sought permission to use — and later tried to defend — excruciating interrogation methods that yielded little to no significant intelligence, according to U.S. officials who have reviewed the document.

“The CIA described (its program) repeatedly both to the Department of Justice and eventually to Congress as getting unique, otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives,” said one U.S. official briefed on the report.

“Was that actually true? The answer is no.”

Current and former U.S. officials describing the report spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue and because the document remains classified.

The report includes what officials described as damning new disclosures about a sprawling network of secret detention facilities, or “black sites,” that was dismantled by President Barack Obama in 2009.

The report describes previously undisclosed cases of abuse including the alleged repeated dunking of a terror suspect in tanks of iced water in Afghanistan.

This method bore similarities to waterboarding but never showed up on any list of techniques approved by the Justice Department, the Post said.

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb