The Script Opposing Declassification of the Torture Report Continues to Roll Out

During John Brennan’s confirmation process, he answered questions about the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture with two faces. To Saxby Chambliss in private, he said he thought the report was a prosecutorial document, set up to come to pre-ordained conclusions. Publicly, to Democrats, he said he was shocked–shocked!–by what he had read in the Executive Summary of the report.

It was quite clear that Brennan was playing the lawmakers who would get to vote on his confirmation, but they didn’t delay his confirmation to resolve the report declassification.

When Brennan’s confirmation got delayed by demands to exercise oversight, the CIA delayed its response — originally due February 15 — on the contents of the report. Indefinitely.

All of this, of course, sets up Brennan to refuse to declassify the report because he believes (and, importantly, believed from the start, according to Saxby Chambliss) that the people who have now rushed his confirmation through were acting in an unfairly prosecutorial mode when they spent 5 years documenting what CIA did in its torture program.

Sure enough, the very day after Brennan won confirmation, WSJ reports that CIA is not done with their review yet, but they disagree with the report’s findings.

The report examines the details of conditions under which each detainee was held and interrogated, the quality of the information provided and the accuracy of how the CIA described the program to other officials and lawmakers. It included 20 recommendations, officials said.

The report assesses the utility of information from interrogations in 20 cases and concludes that it wasn’t useful; the CIA disputes that conclusion in all but one or two of those assessments, officials said.

The CIA is objecting to the majority of the report, a senior intelligence official said.

“The overall objection was the report basically says we never in any instances got good information from this program,” another U.S. official said. “To anyone who has worked at the CIA on this issue, that’s not true.”

Even CIA officers who opposed the interrogation program acknowledge that the agency obtained useful information, the U.S. official said.

Even if Brennan wanted to declassify this report — and given his stated desire to protect CIA from criticism, he probably doesn’t want to — he’d have a hard time doing so, because it would instantly turn the torture dead-enders against him, which is not the safest way to start a job managing a bunch of talented spooks.

Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if the single “senior intelligence official” from which the CIA’s perspective is represented is Brennan. Because it has been clear throughout he was working from a script that would lead to a real, probably unsuccessful, struggle to declassify the report.

And that script is rolling out precisely as expected.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

12 replies
  1. phred says:

    But but but… Obama agreed to show his memos to Congress, so everything is fine now and oversight can proceed as it should and Congress is doing it’s job and Wyden is hero and and and… oh, and Rand Paul is a pinhead. Yeah, everything is swell.

    On a more serious note, I am ashamed of our contemptible Congress. What a worthless lot.

  2. Jeff Kaye says:

    Good post. Only objection: It’s time to stop identifying the pro-torture crowd as “dead-enders”. In fact, the CIA is in its primary character pro-torture. Those left at the Agency who remain and are anti-torture should have resigned long ago, as otherwise they are hopelessly morally compromised.

  3. phred says:

    @thatvisionthing: Because he is a Democrat and capitulation is the only other talent Democrats have besides fund raising? ; )

    I have no idea, but all of one’s power is in one’s vote. Wyden is a disgrace, along with every other member of his miserable useless party.

  4. P J Evans says:

    @phred:

    He’s a libertarian-Democrat., Which means that if libertarians are in favor, he’ll go along with it.

    (There may be actual Democrats in Congress. If you find one, let us know.)

  5. phred says:

    @P J Evans: I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Wyden voted for Brennan. He is a Democrat. If he were a libertarian there might have been a snowball’s chance that he would have voted against, but since principles are thin on the ground in D.C. I rather doubt it, even then.

  6. phred says:

    @P J Evans: Ummm, Wyden voted FOR Brennan, along with nearly EVERY OTHER DEMOCRAT. Most of the votes AGAINST Brennan were Republican. Leahy had the unmitigated gall to note that he personally supports Brennan, he was just miffed about the Judiciary Committee getting slighted, so he voted against. There’s a noble stand for you. DEMOCRATS VOTED FOR BRENNAN. A man I can only hope will one day be tried as a war criminal.

  7. Story of O says:

    @phred:

    > Leahy had the unmitigated gall to note that he personally
    > supports Brennan

    Glad you mentioned “The Paper Batman.” He doesn’t fight crime — he votes for it.

  8. ess emm says:

    *Despair*

    The Dems have been in charge of the Senate since 2006 and havent done shit about national security/foreign policy issues—even with Bush in office.

    Some of them (not you, Rockafeller) ask good questions, but that’s where it ends. Cowards talk, heroes act.

    And phred, hilarious comment on the early draft Bible in the other thread.

  9. Wondering says:

    All this partisan fervor dunno if it matters much. Spent some time yesterday looking again at the Conyers report of old, working through the footnotes.
    I had not been aware that in mid-January 2003 – more than a decade ago – the defense department asked for clarification within 15 days on what been done under the legal restructuring of our country’s relationship to torture. In other words, the defense department didn’t know. And we the people still don’t. A dark chapter that is yet to come fully to light. Did anyone foia that clarification? Just wondering.

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