|Former US President George W Bush at CIA HQ|
The partly redacted report is likely to renew the national debate over now-banned techniques that critics decried as torture and which supporters insist were necessary to stop further terrorist plots after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
United States embassies in the Middle East, North Africa and other parts of the Islamic world have been told to prepare for the possibility of violent protests and threats after the report’s release, according to officials briefed on the preparations and who were not authorized to speak publicly.
The classified report finds that the CIA used water-boarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques more frequently than was legally authorized at then-secret prisons known as “black sites,” according to two US officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the findings.
Although those methods were exposed long ago, one official said the biggest impact of the release may come from the lengthy and graphic descriptions of interrogations based on the CIA’s own archives.
The report, which was completed in 2012, also concludes that nearly all the intelligence gleaned from water-boarding and other harsh techniques could have been obtained from more traditional intelligence-gathering systems. Despite claims to the contrary, it says the interrogations were not necessary to locate Osama bin Laden or thwart any terrorist plots.
Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee refused to participate in the investigation and will issue a separate report that says it was not fairly conducted. The CIA has also written a detailed refutation that it intends to make public.
CIA officials worry that descriptions and aliases in the committee report, when combined with information already public, could reveal names of officers and the scope of assistance that other countries secretly provided to the spy agency.
President Obama, who has said the harsh techniques amounted to torture and banned their use when he came into office in 2009, instructed intelligence officials to declassify and release most of the 480-page executive summary of the committee’s findings.
The White House delivered a redacted version to the committee in August, but an interagency declassification review blacked out about 15% of the words, including every pseudonym used by officials. The committee chair, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), has been negotiating since then to remove some of those redactions.
Obama administration officials say the redactions do not hide the main conclusions or the description of the CIA program. The full report, which runs more than 6,300 pages including footnotes and appendixes, will remain secret.
The investigators examined more than 6 million pages of CIA records but did not interview any of the CIA personnel involved because the Justice Department was investigating whether any laws were broken in the interrogations. No one was charged.
The investigation led to an unusual public spat between the CIA and the Senate oversight committee.
In March, Feinstein took to the Senate floor to angrily denounce the CIA for searching computers used by committee investigators, which she termed illegal. CIA officials countered that Senate staffers had accessed and copied classified documents they were not entitled to see.
“The way the CIA spied on the committee cast a cloud over the agency’s relationship with Congress,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the committee, said Friday in a telephone interview.
Wyden said the CIA was raising security concerns to try to hide embarrassing facts in the record.
“This report is about mistakes, misdeeds and falsehoods that were repeated over a period of years,” he said. “If you don’t know whether they were repeated by different officials each time, or by the same officials over and over, you really don’t know the full story.”
Several senior CIA officials are identified by name in the report, and nearly 100 other intelligence officers are referred to by pseudonyms that were redacted. The aliases are repeated dozens of times, and CIA leaders say they fear that if the redactions are removed, adversaries could piece together enough information to pinpoint officers currently operating undercover abroad.
“There is a reasonable possibility that if their identities were revealed, these CIA officers, many of whom are currently serving, would be subject to threats and possible violence,” CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement.
“CIA continues to do everything it can to bring the declassification process to a conclusion as quickly as possible, so the agency can fully focus its efforts on the many threats facing our nation,” Boyd said.
Leon Panetta, who served under Obama as CIA director from 2009 to 2011 and was selected in part to restore the agency’s credibility, wrote in his memoir, “Worthy Fights,” that he felt such “unsavory” interrogation techniques should not have been used and that they “cut too deeply into America’s sense of itself.”