Will The Torture Report Be Buried After All?

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 5 2014 @ 4:37pm

CIA Report

This is an outrage:

Secretary of State John Kerry personally phoned Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Friday morning to ask her to delay the imminent release of her committee’s report on CIA torture and rendition during the George W. Bush administration, according to administration and Congressional officials. Kerry was not going rogue — his call came after an interagency process that decided the release of the report early next week, as Feinstein had been planning,  could complicate relationships with foreign countries at a sensitive time and posed an unacceptable risk to U.S. personnel and facilities abroad.

First, the Obama administration set up a white-wash, in the form of the Durham investigation; then they sat back as the CIA tried to sabotage the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; then Obama’s chief of staff prevented the report’s publication for months, by insisting on redactions of the report to the point of it being near-unintelligible; and now, with mere days to go, the administration suddenly concludes  that a factual accounting of this country’s descent into barbarism poses “an unacceptable risk” to US personnel abroad. Now, after this report has been stymied for two years; now, just days before its scheduled publication; now, because if the administration can prevent its publication this month, they know full well that the Republicans who will control the committee in January will bury the evidence of grotesque and widespread torture by the US for ever.

Of course this complicates relationships with foreign countries; of course it guts any remaining credibility on human rights the US has; of course the staggering brutality endorsed by the highest echelons in American government will inflame American enemies and provoke disbelief across the civilized world. But that’s not the fault of the report; it’s the fault of the torture regime and its architects, many of whom have continued to operate with total impunity under president Obama.

Make no mistake about it: if this report is buried, it will be this president who made that call, and this president who has allowed this vital and minimal piece of accountability to be slow-walked to death and burial, and backed the CIA every inch of the way. But notice also the way in which Kerry’s phone-call effectively cuts the report off at its knees. If it is released, Obama will be able to say he tried to stop it, and to prevent the purported damage to US interests and personnel abroad. He will have found a way to distance himself from the core task of releasing this essential accounting. And he will have ensured that the debate over it will be about whether the report is endangering Americans, just as the Republican talking points have spelled out, rather than a first step to come to terms with the appalling, devastating truth of what the American government has done.

I’m genuinely shocked by this last-minute attempt to bury the truth. Does anyone doubt that one agency in that inter-agency review is the CIA itself? And can anyone seriously believe that if this moment passes, we will ever know what happened? I have confidence in Senator Feinstein’s backbone on this. I wish I had confidence in the president’s.

So let me make one last appeal: Mr President, make the right call. Release the report. Let the facts be in the sunlight. It’s what you promised. And it’s the least this country deserves.

Update from a reader:

I think you may be interested in what Democratic Senator Mark Udall told Esquire in an interview conducted on November 21 and scheduled to run in the January 2015 issue. Esquire decided to release a portion of it today:

… obviously, if it’s not released, then I’m gonna use every power I have, because it’s too important. It’s too historic. And we can’t afford to repeat the mistakes to let this slide.

(Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)