(Washington, DC) – The US Senate’s intelligence committee should release as planned its report summary on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s detention and interrogation program, Human Rights Watch said today. The White House’s expressed support for the release has been undermined by statements from the State Department raising concerns over the timing of the release and possible foreign policy implications.
“Last minute attempts to delay the release of the Senate torture report show just how important this document is to understanding the CIA’s horrific torture program,” said Sarah Margon, Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “US foreign policy is better served by coming clean about US abuses rather than continuing to bury the truth.”
On December 5, 2014, US Secretary of State John Kerry denied media reports that he had asked Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein to delay the report summary’s release. However, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki noted in a statement that Kerry had called Feinstein to “make sure that foreign policy implications were appropriately factored into timing” of the release.
Negotiations over the summary’s release have been ongoing since the committee voted to approve the full report in December 2012. Since then CIA objections and efforts to redact the summary have significantly slowed the process. Scheduled for release the week of December 8, 2014, is a roughly 600-page redacted summary of the more than 6,000-page report. The committee has not indicated if or when the full report will be released.
The White House indicated on December 5 that it favors going ahead next week with release of the summary. “The president has long advocated the declassified release of this report, so we certainly welcome the news from the committee that they’re planning to do so next week,” said Josh Earnest, White House spokesman.
Feinstein has said the report will provide important factual information about the CIA’s use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, a euphemism for torture, as part of the agency’s detention and interrogation program, conditions under which detainees were held, the intelligence that was – or was not – gained from the program, and the accuracy of CIA descriptions about the program to the president, Justice Department, Congress, and others.
Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, recently said during the Committee against Torture’s review of US compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, that “the test for any nation committed to this Convention and to the rule of law is not whether it ever makes mistakes, but whether and how it corrects them.” He added that the US goal is to “move forward, but we know that to avoid falling backward, we must be willing to look backward, and to come to terms with what happened in the past.”
Consistent with these objectives and its international legal obligations, the US should release the report summary without delay, Human Rights Watch said. Release of the report summary is a crucial first step toward providing accountability for grave international crimes.
“The CIA’s efforts to stop the release or black out the report summary has made getting even to this point a prolonged, fraught ordeal,” Margon said. “Further delays in the summary’s release will only compound the harms done to US credibility as a rights-respecting country.”