Early last month, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to make public a report detailing the findings of a study on the interrogation and detention program of the CIA. Implemented sometime after 9/11, the program involved water-boarding and other harsh techniques used against suspected terrorists. The study was prompted by news reports that made the committee aware of the destruction of a handful of CIA interrogation tapes. It eventually was expanded to investigate the interrogation program in its entirety.
The report concluded that there was minimal meaningful intelligence obtained from the program’s tactics. The unsettling findings didn’t stop there, however. The council also discovered that the CIA provided false information about the success and severity of its practices to government officials, including the president, security council, and Congress. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), chairman of the committee, shared these comments concerning the study:
“The purpose of this review was to uncover the facts behind this secret program, and the results were shocking. The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation. It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen.”
In order to ensure that the practice of such appalling methods by the agency is permanently halted, the document must now be approved by the president and the CIA itself. Obama has expressed his support for the release of the findings to the public. However, it may be months for the report to complete the declassification process because the CIA has been been presented with quite a problematic decision.
Although the agency has acknowledged that the program had its drawbacks, there are many risks involved in allowing the findings to be made public. Some CIA officials desire to defend the program, believing in the effectiveness of the tactics used. Caution is more than necessary if they the agency takes this route, for their relationship with Congress is already on the rocks. Critiquing the document too harshly could produce many negative political repercussions for the CIA.
Recalling the discussion we had in class about past CIA involvement in coups, this would be the first time in history that potentially concrete evidence was presented to convict the CIA of their unethical measures. If the CIA does choose to allow the declassification of the report, the American public will be able to judge the evidence and conclusions, giving it the chance to develop its own opinion.
The significance of this event would then be left up to us. Would we, as Americans, be able to admit to our mistakes? It’s time to put our narcissism and our hypocrisy behind us and finally become a nation that is truly an advocate of justice.