Praise for U.S. Senate Committee vote to release CIA torture report

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There was praise today from civil liberties and human rights leaders for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's vote on April 3 for declassification review and public release of the panel's report on the CIA's Bush-era rendition, secret detentoon and torture program.

The report is a 6,300-page document and is considered the most comprehensive account to date of the torture program, according to the national American Civil Liberties Union. 

The committee's chair, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the purpose of the investigation was to uncover the facts and the results "were shocking." She said, "The report exposes brutality that stands in sharp contrast to our values as a nation. It chronicles a stain on our history that must never be allowed to happen again. This is not what Americans do."

Responding to the bipartisan vote, ACLU senior legislative counsel Christopher Anders said, "The vote on this landmark report is a big step towards making sure that all Americans know the truth about torture, so that we can make sure that torture is never used again. The key challenge for President Obama now is whether he will finally stand up to the CIA. The president should assert his authority to have the White House itself, and not the CIA, decide what gets declassified and what gets redacted. The CIA should not be handed a black-out pen to hide its use of torture or the lies it told to keep the torture program going."

Human rights and civil liberties groups asked the president, in a letter last week, to lead the declassification process "given the CIA's inherent conflict of interest concerning the report."

The Senate report, according to news reports, said the CIA misled Congress, the Justice Department and the Bush White House about the use of torture methods — simulated drownings, shackling in painful positions, induced hypothermia and slamming detainees against walls.

The report also found that such methods did not help locate Osama bin Laden or thwart any terrorist plots, and were in fact counterproductive.

The Physicians for Human Rights also welcomed the Senate committee vote, which was 11-3.

“The American public deserves to know how our government engaged in torture, so that we can make sure these immoral and illegal acts are not repeated,” said Andrea Gittleman, PHR’s interim director of U.S. policy. "Releasing this report is a crucial step toward transparency and will hopefully start a new chapter in our country’s history that elevates truth and promotes accountability."

PHR has documented the unethical use of medical professionals in torture and ill-treatment and has long called for a full investigation into the medical community’s involvement.

Medical community leaders have spoken out about the need to release the CIA torture report.

As part of a national initiative led by PHR to encourage the medical community to press senators to vote in favor of the report’s release, medical and health professionals in Maine launched a statewide campaign urging Susan Collins and Angus King – both of whom serve on the Intelligence Committee – to vote in support of releasing the critical information contained in the report in order to prevent future abuses. Both senators indicated their intent to vote in favor of declassification and release of parts of the report earlier this week.

Reprieve, a UK-based human rights organization, also praised the vote. Reprieve U.S. counsel Alka Pradhan said in a news release, “We cannot learn from history unless we know what it is. It is well past time for the CIA to be held publicly accountable for its disastrous mistakes in the so-called 'War on Terror'. After years of CIA deceit, the White House must allow the American people to judge for themselves whether the crimes committed in our name were justified. President Obama can now deliver on his promise of transparency, by declassifying not only the Executive Summary but the full report into what went wrong at the CIA."

The ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain the full investigative report, the CIA’s official response defending its actions and an internal agency review commissioned by then-CIA Director Leon Panetta.

The Panetta review reportedly contradicts some of the CIA’s official response to the Senate report.

The CIA agreed in January in the lawsuit to process for possible release the CIA response and the Panetta review.

That potential release is scheduled for May 22.