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Monday, 15 December 2014

Durbin:Torture report a bipartisan undertaking.....................

The Senate Intelligence Committee torture report, which was issued last week, is a historic milestone in the effort to reckon with some of the excesses that marred our country’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein for her persistence in ensuring that this report was publicly released.  
OPINION
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program began after The New York Times disclosed that in 2005 the CIA had destroyed videotapes showing the CIA’s use of abusive interrogation techniques. The CIA denied the Times’ characterization of the interrogations and invited the Senate Intelligence Committee to review operational cables and e-mails that the CIA argued would clear them of charges of wrongdoing.
After discovering that the documents showed detention conditions and interrogations far worse than what the CIA had previously described, the Intelligence Committee authorized the review by an overwhelming and bipartisan 14-1 vote.
Staffers laboriously studied over 6 million pages of CIA records. During this process the CIA was caught hacking into computers used by Intelligence Committee staff to discover what they had found.
In December 2012, the Committee by a 9-6 bipartisan vote approved the release of the 6700 page report, which contains 38,000 footnotes. In April 2014, after months of negotiations with the CIA, the Intelligence Committee approved the declassification and public report of the executive summary and findings by an 11-3 bipartisan vote. The Administration worked until the last minute to discourage the Committee from releasing this comprehensive report.
To argue that the release of the Feinstein report was a partisan undertaking, as Chicago Sun-Times columnist Steve Huntley and former Vice-President Cheney have suggested, ignores the record of bipartisan votes which led to the preparation and release of this historic report, as well as the opposition of the current administration.
More importantly, this type of public disclosure of the excesses and abuses of government power is what free and democratic governments do and dictators detest. After years of denying that torture like waterboarding was taking place, we now know from their own documents that the CIA was misleading the president, the Congress and the American people.
Some of our enemies may use this disclosure to rally more hatred for the United States, but honestly they are dedicated to harming us and do not need any provocation.
The Senate Intelligence Committee torture report, which was issued last week, is a historic milestone in the effort to reckon with some of the excesses that marred our country’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein for her persistence in ensuring that this report was publicly released.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program began after The New York Times disclosed that in 2005 the CIA had destroyed videotapes showing the CIA’s use of abusive interrogation techniques. The CIA denied the Times’ characterization of the interrogations and invited the Senate Intelligence Committee to review operational cables and e-mails that the CIA argued would clear them of charges of wrongdoing.
After discovering that the documents showed detention conditions and interrogations far worse than what the CIA had previously described, the Intelligence Committee authorized the review by an overwhelming and bipartisan 14-1 vote. Staffers laboriously studied over 6 million pages of CIA records. During this process the CIA was caught hacking into computers used by Intelligence Committee staff to discover what they had found.
In December 2012, the Committee by a 9-6 bipartisan vote approved the release of the 6700 page report, which contains 38,000 footnotes. In April 2014, after months of negotiations with the CIA, the Intelligence Committee approved the declassification and public report of the executive summary and findings by an 11-3 bipartisan vote. The Administration worked until the last minute to discourage the Committee from releasing this comprehensive report.
To argue that the release of the Feinstein report was a partisan undertaking, as Chicago Sun-Times columnist Steve Huntley and former Vice-President Cheney have suggested, ignores the record of bipartisan votes which led to the preparation and release of this historic report, as well as the opposition of the current administration.
More importantly, this type of public disclosure of the excesses and abuses of government power is what free and democratic governments do and dictators detest. After years of denying that torture like waterboarding was taking place, we now know from their own documents that the CIA was misleading the president, the Congress and the American people.
Some of our enemies may use this disclosure to rally more hatred for the United States, but honestly they are dedicated to harming us and do not need any provocation.
My colleague, Senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain, was the first to speak in the Senate after Sen. Feinstein. He strongly supported the public release of the torture report. John, himself a victim of torture as a Vietnam prisoner of war, summarized in a few words why this report was so important. He said: “Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”
As with our military, the men and women who serve in our intelligence agencies are critical to our national security and we owe them a great debt of gratitude. But when people in their ranks cross the line and violate basic standards, they need to be held accountable lest everyone be blamed for the wrongdoing of a few.
General Colin Powell, then serving as Secretary of State, warned us even in the wake of the 9-11 tragedy not to abandon the standards of the Geneva Conventions in our fight against terrorism. He said to do so “would reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice…and undermine the protections of law for our own troops…It will undermine public support among critical allies, making military cooperation more difficult to sustain.” His words still ring true today. Torture is un-American and hurts our efforts to fight terrorism.
It is critical that we seize on the Senate Intelligence Committee torture report as an opportunity to learn from our past mistakes so that we don’t repeat them in the future.
Democrat Dick Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois, is the assistant Senate majority leader.