Did torture yield results? Expected report on CIA practices sparks controversy

A five-year Senate investigation into the CIA's use of torture and other practices that violate international law has US embassies on alert around the world. 

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/File
In this June 3, 2014 file photo, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Secretary of State John Kerry asked Feinstein on Friday to 'consider' the timing of the expected release in coming days of a report on harsh CIA interrogation techniques.

US embassies and military bases abroad are bracing for the expected release today of the Senate's controversial report on the CIA's use of torture during the Bush administration.

The 480-page document reveals the results of Senate investigation into the CIA's use of torture and other techniques that violate international law against prisoners held on terrorism-related charges. Though many details of the Senate's findings will remain classified – the document is a summary of a 6,000-page report that is not being released – the report is expected to conclude that the methods used by the CIA to interrogate prisoners during the post-9/11 years were more extreme than previously admitted and produced no intelligence that could not have been acquired through legal means.

Fast-response teams of Marines are on alert around the world in anticipation of international protests over the report's findings. A US defense official told CNN that the teams, trained to reinforce US embassies under attack, are on standby for rapid deployment to North Africa and the Middle East if needed.

The Los Angeles Times writes that the report is expected to say that the CIA used methods of "waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques more frequently than was legally authorized at then-secret prisons known as 'black sites.' "

The report will also likely state that the intelligence acquired from the use of such techniques was not useful to finding Osama bin Laden or preventing attacks on US interests, and "nearly all the intelligence gleaned through harsh techniques could have been obtained from more traditional intelligence-gathering systems," the Times adds.

Naturally, the report's findings are highly controversial, with many former Bush administration and Republican officials slamming its release as partisan and dangerous to the US and its citizens. President Bush said on CNN on Sunday that "We're fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the CIA serving on our behalf," and that "These are patriots. And whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base." Rep. Mike Rogers (R) of Michigan said that the report could produce a violent reaction among Muslims.

The White House has acknowledged those concerns, The New York Times reports, but sees few options. “When would be a good time to release this report?” asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “It’s difficult to imagine one, particularly given the painful details that will be included.”

The depth of CIA concern over the investigation, which lasted five years, was evident in revelations last summer that the organization spied on Congress during the process, hacking into staffers' computers and deleting files, MacLean's reports.

When Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, complained of interference in the committee's work, however, CIA director John Brennan was initially dismissive:

“We are not in any way trying to thwart the report’s progress [or] release,” he said. “As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into computers, nothing could be further from the truth.” He added: “That’s beyond the scope of reason.” But when Feinstein’s story was corroborated by the CIA’s own inspector general, who found that five agency employees “improperly accessed” the staffers’ hard drives, Brennan apologized to her.

“This is out of a movie,” Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona told reporters this month. “In some ways, it’s worse than criminal.” McCain, who was tortured in captivity during the Vietnam War and has been a staunch opponent of torture, is one of several senators calling for a high-level outside investigation, arguing that the CIA’s interference with the Senate’s work violated “the fundamental barriers of constitutional authority and responsibility.”

The New York Times notes that the report will likely heighten the concerns of US allies abroad that allegedly operated "black sites" and carried out some of the CIA interrogations. Though Radio Poland reports that specific countries are unlikely to be named in the report, among those feeling pressure is Poland, where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was reportedly waterboarded. The Times writes:

“We have suspected that Polish authorities knew about the black sites and that the C.I.A. had planned for them from the very beginning,” said Adam Bodnar, vice president of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. “Hopefully, it will allow this issue to be finally resolved, and make sure those in Poland who are guilty are brought to justice.”

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in July that Poland was complicit in the interrogation program and awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to two men: Abu Zubaydah, suspected of running a Qaeda facility in Pakistan, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, believed to have planned the attack on the U.S.S. Cole.

“Poland, for all practical purposes, facilitated the whole process, created the conditions for it to happen, and made no attempt to prevent it from occurring,” the court ruled. Polish officials have steadfastly denied the country was involved in the secret prison program.

Radio Poland notes that "Poland is conducting an investigation into the allegations, but has been criticized for repeatedly delaying publication of the report."

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