Sen. Feinstein Rips Obama on Redacted Torture Report

“I will not rush this process,” the California Democrat said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) speaks on Capitol Hill on June 4. On Tuesday, Feinstein's Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee approved a fiscal 2015 spending bill.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
Aug. 5, 2014, 1 p.m.

The Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee will not make its find­ings on Bush-era “en­hanced in­ter­rog­a­tion” pro­grams avail­able to the pub­lic un­til the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion can ex­plain why it heav­ily re­dac­ted por­tions of the pan­el’s re­port on CIA tor­ture tech­niques.

Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Di­anne Fein­stein is un­sat­is­fied with the amount of re­dac­ted ma­ter­i­al, say­ing the re­port will stay clas­si­fied un­til the ad­min­is­tra­tion can ex­plain the black­outs.

“After fur­ther re­view of the re­dac­ted ver­sion of the ex­ec­ut­ive sum­mary, I have con­cluded the re­dac­tions elim­in­ate or ob­scure key facts that sup­port the re­port’s find­ings and con­clu­sions,” the power­ful Cali­for­nia Demo­crat said in a state­ment Tues­day. “Un­til these re­dac­tions are ad­dressed to the com­mit­tee’s sat­is­fac­tion, the re­port will not be made pub­lic.”

Last week, the White House re­turned the so-called “tor­ture re­port” to the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, but Fein­stein said she would need to re­view the re­dac­tions be­fore de­cid­ing wheth­er to make the re­port pub­lic. Oth­er sen­at­ors blas­ted the ad­min­is­tra­tion for at­tempt­ing to con­ceal em­bar­rass­ing de­tails con­tained in the pan­el’s 500-page ex­ec­ut­ive sum­mary of the lar­ger study.

“Re­dac­tions are sup­posed to re­move names or any­thing that could com­prom­ise sources and meth­ods, not to un­der­mine the source ma­ter­i­al so that it is im­possible to un­der­stand,” said Sen. Mar­tin Hein­rich, a New Mex­ico Demo­crat, in a state­ment. “Try read­ing a nov­el with 15 per­cent of the words blacked out. It can’t be done prop­erly.”

In re­sponse to the back­lash, Dir­ect­or of Na­tion­al In­tel­li­gence James Clap­per jus­ti­fied the de­le­tions as ne­ces­sary and noted that half of them were made in the doc­u­ment’s foot­notes.

But Fein­stein is de­mand­ing more an­swers and is un­will­ing to re­lease the re­port as it cur­rently stands.

“I am send­ing a let­ter today to the pres­id­ent lay­ing out a series of changes to the re­dac­tions that we be­lieve are ne­ces­sary pri­or to pub­lic re­lease,” Fein­stein said. “This pro­cess will take some time, and the re­port will not be re­leased un­til I am sat­is­fied that all re­dac­tions are ap­pro­pri­ate.”

She con­tin­ued: “The bot­tom line is that the United States must nev­er again make the mis­takes doc­u­mented in this re­port. … That is why I be­lieve tak­ing our time and get­ting it right is so im­port­ant, and I will not rush this pro­cess.”

Also on Tues­day, Sen. Carl Lev­in, a Michigan Demo­crat, cri­ti­cized the re­dac­tions as “totally un­ac­cept­able.” He ad­ded that there was “mul­tiple in­stances where CIA pro­poses to re­dact in­form­a­tion that has already been pub­licly dis­closed” in a 2009 re­port on de­tain­ee ab­use writ­ten by the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, which Lev­in chairs.

The tor­ture re­port, some of which has been leaked already, is widely be­lieved to con­clude that the CIA’s use of wa­ter­board­ing and oth­er “en­hanced in­ter­rog­a­tion” prac­tices yiel­ded little to no valu­able na­tion­al se­cur­ity in­form­a­tion that could not have oth­er­wise been ob­tained us­ing more tra­di­tion­al in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing meth­ods.

On Fri­day, Pres­id­ent Obama re­ferred to the re­port dur­ing a press con­fer­ence, in­dic­at­ing at the time that its re­lease was im­min­ent. Obama also con­demned the in­ter­rog­a­tion pro­tocol used by the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, which he banned when he took of­fice.

“In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong,” Obama said. “We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tor­tured some folks. We did some things that were con­trary to our val­ues.”

Fein­stein’s salvo is just the latest in an on­go­ing feud between her pan­el and the CIA.

Last week, the CIA ad­mit­ted it im­prop­erly ac­cessed com­puters used by Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence staffers to in­vest­ig­ate the spy agency’s de­ten­tion, rendi­tion, and in­ter­rog­a­tion prac­tices de­ployed dur­ing George W. Bush’s pres­id­ency. CIA Dir­ect­or John Bren­nan de­term­ined that his em­ploy­ees “ac­ted in a man­ner in­con­sist­ent with the com­mon un­der­stand­ing” brokered between his agency and its Sen­ate over­seers.

At least three sen­at­ors, in­clud­ing Hein­rich, have asked for Bren­nan to step down.

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