Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill on Monday expressed her support for the forthcoming release of a Senate report on the interrogation techniques used by the CIA during the Bush administration, which the senator described as a “gut check moment” for U.S. democracy.
“It exposes what the world already knows and that is that the United States engaged in torture, but my feeling about this is that this is a gut check moment for our democracy,” McCaskill, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told “CBS This Morning.” “The world knows we tortured. But does the world know yet that we’ll hold up our values and hold our government accountable?”
This report would never happen in North Korea, or China or Russia,” McCaskill added. “If it doesn’t come out, then we all need to get comfortable with the fact that in America, the CIA has no oversight.”
Current and former executive officials including Secretary of State John Kerry and former CIA Director Michael Hayden aren’t as enthused. Both spent last weekend warning that releasing the so-called “torture report,” which examines enhanced interrogation techniques such as water boarding and sleep deprivation used by the CIA during the early years of the “War on Terror,” could spark attacks against U.S. interests abroad.
“First of all, the CIA workforce will feel as if it has been tried and convicted in absentia since the Senate Democrats and their staff didn’t talk to anyone actively involved in the program,” Hayden told CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday. “Second, this will be used by our enemies to motivate people to attack Americans and American facilities overseas.”
“There are countries out there who have cooperated with us on the war on terror at some political risk that are relying on American discretion,” Hayden said. “I can’t imagine anyone out there going forward in the future who would be willing to do anything that even smacks of political danger.”
The report is alleged to show the agency routinely lied to the administration and Congress about techniques used during interrogations and imprisonments in overseas “black sites,” and that despite their borderline-legal nature, failed to yield significant intelligence.
“To say that we relentlessly over an expanded period of time lied to everyone about a program that wasn’t doing any good, that beggars the imagination,” Hayden said. “At the end of the summer [in 2006, when Hayden took over CIA] I recommended to President Bush that we reduce the program, that we reduce the number of techniques, but that the program had been so valuable that we couldn’t stop it altogether.”
“Even though now we had so much more intelligence on al-Qaida from the detainees and other sources, even then the program had proven its worth. … In conscience, I couldn’t take it off the table.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that releasing the report was “a terrible idea.”
“Foreign leaders have approached the government and said, ‘You do this, this will cause violence and deaths.’ Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths,” Rogers said.
Kerry on Friday expressed similar concerns to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee that spent five years and $40 million assembling the report.
According to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, Kerry personally called Feinstein to “make sure that foreign policy implications [such as American hostages and efforts to battle Islamic radicals] were being appropriately factored” into the timing of the report’s release. Despite the warning, Kerry echoed the administration’s support of the report’s release.
In a 2012 statement Feinstein said the committee dug through six million pages of agency and related records to assemble the 6,000-page report, which she called “one of the most significant oversight efforts in the history of the United States Senate, and by far the most important oversight activity ever conducted by this committee.”
Over the last year the report has been at the heart of a scandal involving the spy agency, whose own internal inspector general concluded earlier this year that CIA personnel improperly impersonated and spied on Senate Intelligence Committee staffers and computers charged with assembling the report. (RELATED: Report: CIA Deleted Computer Records About Senate Spying)
Redactions to the report’s soon-to-be-released executive summary have been the subject of significant debate between lawmakers and administration officials over the last few months. Feinstein told reporters last week that such arguments were in their final stages, and that she expected them to wrap up last Monday night. (RELATED: Senate To Release Long-Awaited CIA ‘Torture Report’)
The executive summary is expected to be released Tuesday according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
“There are some indications that the release of the report could lead to a greater risk that is posed to U.S. facilities and individuals all around the world, so the administration has taken the prudent steps to ensure that the proper security precautions are in place at U.S. facilities around the globe,” Earnest said Monday.