Secrecy News

More Declassified Documents on Torture

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a newly declassified account of the opinions issued by the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel concerning CIA’s interrogation and detention program during the Bush Administration.  The document is neutral, dispassionate, and maybe a little dull, particularly when compared with the gruesomely detailed contents of some of the OLC opinions themselves, on which it does not render any moral or legal judgment.  Remarkably, release of this Senate report was blocked last year when the Bush Administration National Security Council refused to declassify it.  But now it, and much more, has been released.  See “Declassified Narrative Describing the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel’s Opinions on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program” (pdf), released April 22, 2009.

Another newly declassified report, from the Senate Armed Services Committee, does not shrink from drawing conclusions.  “The report represents a condemnation of both the Bush administration’s interrogation policies and of senior administration officials who attempted to shift the blame for abuse–such as that seen at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan–to low ranking soldiers. Claims, such as that made by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz that detainee abuses could be chalked up to the unauthorized acts of a ‘few bad apples,’ were simply false,” said Sen. Carl Levin in an April 21 floor statement introducing the report (large pdf).

Does torture work?  Preempting and perhaps foreclosing an argument advanced by former Vice President Cheney and others, DNI Dennis C. Blair said in an April 21 statement that “The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means. The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security,” he said.