CIA Withdraws Email Destruction Proposal

The Central Intelligence Agency has formally rescinded its widely-criticized plan to destroy the email records of all but 22 senior agency officials, the National Archives said last week.

The CIA proposal generated controversy when it became public in 2014 because of its surprisingly narrow scope, which would have precluded preservation of vast swaths of CIA email records. Such records have proved invaluable not only for historical purposes, but also for contemporary accountability and congressional oversight.

“The agency has withdrawn this schedule effective March 21, 2016, due to the agency’s reorganization,” wrote Margaret Hawkins, director of records appraisal and agency assistance at the National Archives and Records Administration, in an email message to the Federation of American Scientists.

“In our last communication on this schedule, it was conveyed that a public meeting would be held to address all comments received. With the schedule’s withdrawal, this meeting will not be held.”

In any case, CIA is still obliged to present a plan to the National Archives to explain how it will preserve or dispose of its email records. CIA can either adopt the standard template known as the Capstone General Records Schedule, or it can devise a specific plan of its own for approval by the National Archives.

“If the agency chooses to submit a new agency-specific records schedule, it will be available for request and comment to the public through the Federal Register process,” Ms. Hawkins wrote.

In 1963, CIA Said It Had Copies of Soviet Spysat Images

In a newly disclosed memorandum from 1963, the Director of Central Intelligence advised the Secretary of State that the CIA had “good reproductions” of Soviet satellite imagery.

This puzzling remark appears to suggest a previously unrecognized capability of the CIA.

The declassified memo summarizes a July 3, 1963 telephone conversation between DCI John McCone and Secretary of State Dean Rusk. It was discovered by researchers David M. Barrett and Eric P. Swanson.

According to the memo, McCone said that the U.S. had “for some time tried to determine whether the Soviets were actually photographing and the extent they were from satellites.” The DCI said “it has been determined they have been and we have good reproductions of what they are getting.” The DCI was to brief the President on the subject the following week.

In an article discussing the memo in the journal Intelligence & National Security, Barrett and Swanson wrote that they found “no references in the intelligence literature to the United States having had the capability to see what the Soviet satellites were seeing, much less any treatment of how the CIA obtained the ‘good reproductions’.”

Assuming the McCone statement is accurate, it would seem to imply one of a few possibilities. It could mean that the US was somehow intercepting the Soviet images (which seems improbable), or that it was replicating the images through US overflights, or else that it was simply modeling the images based on the presumed capabilities of the Soviet satellites and their orbital parameters.

Prof. Barrett added that the fact that the matter was to be briefed to the President indicated that it was of more than ordinary significance. He also noted that the 1963 memo was located in State Department records at the National Archives, and was not released by CIA.

The import of the memo remains uncertain.

Reproductions of Soviet satellite imagery were “not anything I ever came across some ten years later,” said former CIA analyst Allen Thomson, “and I was in a decent position to see such (Office of Weapons Intelligence).”

“At a guess, perhaps the ‘reproductions’ were simulations based on the technical state of the art at the time (film) and estimates of the camera aperture. That would have been easy enough to do and useful as an aid to orient consumers to what might be in the imagery. Or it could just have meant looking at the ground tracks to see what the satellites overflew,” Mr. Thomson said.

Dino Brugioni, who was a pioneering figure in U.S. imagery intelligence and a CIA official at the time of the McCone memo, passed away in September with little public notice.

Open Source Center (OSC) Becomes Open Source Enterprise (OSE)

The DNI Open Source Center has been redesignated the Open Source Enterprise and incorporated in CIA’s new Directorate of Digital Innovation.

The Open Source Center, established in 2005, was tasked to collect and analyze open source information of intelligence value across all media – – print, broadcast and online. The OSC was the successor to the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), which gathered and translated world news coverage and other open source information for half a century.

“As part of the Agency modernization effort announced by Director Brennan earlier this year, the DNI Open Source Center (OSC) changed its name to the Open Source Enterprise (OSE) on October 1, 2015,” said CIA spokesperson Ryan Trapani. “OSE remains dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and disseminating publicly available information of intelligence value. The organization’s new name reflects the broad relevance and scope of the open source mission.”

“OSE retains its role as the Intelligence Community’s (IC) center of excellence for open source collection, analysis, and tradecraft,” he added. “Director Brennan also retains his role as the interagency Open Source Functional manager.”

As FBIS also did for several decades, the Open Source Center used to produce a publicly available line of products, including translations and open source analyses. But at the end of 2013, to the dismay of many longtime subscribers, CIA abruptly terminated that channel of public information, citing costs and the easy availability of alternate public sources.

“That decision was primarily due to the cost-prohibitive nature of updating the feed and in light of the broad accessibility of open source information on the Internet,” said Mr. Trapani. “Nevertheless, OSE remains committed to fulfilling its core mission of collecting, analyzing, and disseminating open source information. At this time, however, OSE has no plans to expand the scope of its services to include the regular release of unclassified, non-copyrighted materials to the public.”

That’s unfortunate.

While there is indeed a surfeit of “news” and “information” of all kinds, the open source analytical products generated in the intelligence community have the potential to add value to public discourse. A somewhat random cross-section of OSC products from several years ago that illustrates the range and quality of these analyses, obtained without authorization, is available here.

“If I were the DNI, I would… direct the OSC to release as much unclassified material as it could,” I suggested in a speech last year to a conference of intelligence community lawyers. But I’m not, and it didn’t.

However, the new ODNI transparency implementation plan may present an occasion to reconsider the CIA non-disclosure policy regarding unclassified open source products.

Though the Open Source Center is no more, its name and logo live on in various locations, like this official website.

“OSE’s portal along with other materials branded with the previous OSC seal and moniker, will be updated with new OSE labeling in the coming months,” Mr. Trapani said.

In 2006, the DNI issued Intelligence Community Directive 301 on the National Open Source Enterprise, but it was rescinded in 2012, according to an ODNI spokesman. “It was determined that ICD 113, Functional Managers, provided sufficient authorities and responsibilities for all functional managers, including D/CIA as the open source intelligence [manager].”

CIA Classification Practices Challenged

The Central Intelligence Agency has improperly classified and withheld from release at least five categories of information related to its post-9/11 rendition, detention and interrogation program, according to a detailed complaint filed by Openthegovernment.org with the Information Security Oversight Office.

Classification of this information has impeded government accountability for the controversial CIA programs and derailed a full public reckoning over abuses that occurred, the complaint said.

“Secrecy regarding ‘black sites’ and torture has played a major role in ensuring that no CIA personnel could be prosecuted for torture, war crimes, destruction of evidence, or other relevant federal crimes. It has ensured that civil courts were closed to victims of torture, indefinitely delayed trials of the accused perpetrators of the September 11 attacks, and put the United States in breach of its obligations under the Convention Against Torture,” wrote Katherine Hawkins, National Security Fellow at Openthegovernment.org, who authored the complaint.

She specified five categories of information that she said had been classified in violation of the executive order governing classification policy and redacted from the summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on interrogation:

*     The pseudonyms and titles, and in some cases the names, of CIA officials and contractors implicated in the torture program.

*     The names of countries that hosted black sites (i.e. unacknowledged locations of CIA detention centers abroad).

*     Former CIA detainees’ descriptions of the details of their own torture.

*     The CIA’s involvement in the torture of prisoners in Iraq.

*     The CIA’s rendition of prisoners to torture in foreign custody.

The 38-page complaint presents extensive arguments that certain particular information in each of these categories was improperly classified by the CIA.

“There is strong evidence that classification of evidence regarding the torture program violated the Executive Order, in some cases willfully so,” Ms. Hawkins wrote. “It is important that there be consequences for this abuse of the classification power to deter similar violations in the future. But it is even more important that the cover-up end, and that ISOO act to oversee ongoing CIA classification decisions regarding the rendition, detention and interrogation program.”

John P. Fitzpatrick, the director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), which oversees the classification system, said his office has already begun “digging into the complaint in detail…. I don’t yet know what level of effort this will require.”

Under Executive Order 13526 (section 5.2(6)), the ISOO director is authorized and required to “consider and take action on complaints and suggestions from persons within or outside the Government with respect to the administration of the [classification] program established under this order.”

As a practical matter, ISOO’s capacity to investigate classification errors is limited by the Office’s size and budget.

Nevertheless, Mr. Fitzpatrick said, “handling complaints like this is part of our mission, so we will have to see what can be done.”

The immediate next steps, he said, include identifying the specific claims advanced by the complaint and the parts of the executive order they may relate to; gathering relevant facts that would support or refute the claims; and performing analysis to reach a conclusion. Considering the length and detail of the complaint, reviewing it “will take time.”

*    *    *

If there is a systemic solution to the problem of overclassification, it is likely to involve the kind of independent review that has been urged on ISOO by Openthegovernment.org in this case.

Government agencies that are left to their own devices will almost always classify more information than is necessary or appropriate. Without assuming any malign intent on their part, it is simply the path of least resistance.

However, when an agency is required to justify its classification activity to an impartial reviewer, even on a non-adversarial basis, a reduction in the scope of classification results more often than not. This has been confirmed repeatedly.

*    Between 1996 and 2014, the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel directed the declassification of information in 71 percent of the documents presented to it by members of the public whose direct requests to agencies had been denied, ISOO reported in 2014.

*    Documents concerning covert actions that the CIA had refused to acknowledge on its own were approved for declassification and publication in the Foreign Relations of the United States series after deliberation by the so-called High-Level Panel composed of representatives of the National Security Council, State Department and CIA.

*    CIA classification of many records related to the JFK assassination could not withstand review by the independent Assassination Records Review Board. The Board ordered declassification of tens of thousands of assassination-related records including millions of pages.

*    Even within individual agencies, the process of challenging classification decisions has borne fruit to a surprising extent. Government employees challenged the classification status of various items of information in 813 cases in FY2014, the Information Security Oversight Office reported. Their classification was overturned in whole or in part in 453 of those cases.

It follows that new venues and new procedures for independently evaluating disputed classification decisions would help to reduce or eliminate spurious classification.

CIA Reviews “Operational Files” Exemptions from FOIA

The CIA Information Act of 1984 authorizes the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency to designate certain Agency records as “operational files.” Doing so makes them exempt not only from disclosure, but even from search and review under the Freedom of Information Act.

The 1984 Act also requires the Agency to perform a “decennial review” at least every ten years in order to determine whether any of the designated operational files exemptions can be rescinded, so that the affected files would become subject to a regular FOIA search and review.

The third such decennial review is now underway.

The CIA is soliciting public comments to help identify categories of Agency records that are of particular historical or public interest value and that have been exempted from normal processing under the FOIA as operational files. Comments are due on May 1, the CIA said in an April 20 Federal Register notice.

The first decennial review of the operational files exemption, completed in 1995, led to the opening of four file categories to FOIA search and review.  The second decennial review, completed in 2005, yielded no newly opened file series but did lead to the designation and exemption of 23 new operational file categories. This was an outcome not contemplated in the statute (50 USC 3141(g)), which says nothing about using the decennial review to create new exempted categories. (Secrecy News, April 19, 2006).

In comments submitted to the CIA today, the Federation of American Scientists offered several suggestions for consideration in the current decennial review, including these:

*    The operational files exemption should not be applied to any records that are 25 years old or older.

*    Clandestine service history records and records of imagery analysis should be removed from the operational files category.

*    Files pertaining to civilian casualties of CIA operations (including covert actions) should not be exempted from regular FOIA processing, nor should records of CIA interrogation and detention practices be considered exempted operational records.

Another State Secrets Case Ends in Dismissal

Last week, a federal court dismissed a lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency after the government asserted the state secrets privilege and argued that the case could not be litigated without jeopardizing national security.

Former CIA officer Jacob E. Abilt (a pseudonym) had charged the Agency with employment discrimination, improper retaliation and wrongful termination. In December, CIA Director John Brennan invoked the state secrets privilege to block the lawsuit.

“The facts of Mr. Abilt’s employment with the CIA are replete with classified information,” Mr. Brennan wrote. “For example, the specific National Clandestine Service operations on which he worked are classified. For the majority of his supervisors and coworkers, even the fact of their association with the CIA is classified. The nature and description of the work that they performed is classified….”

“Any exploration therefore of Mr. Abilt’s employment, and that of his colleagues, will necessarily risk disclosure of highly sensitive classified details concerning the existence and nature of clandestine CIA collection programs and activities,” Mr. Brennan wrote.

In opposition, Mr. Abilt’s attorneys argued that the case could proceed without any compromise of national security.

“Mr. Abilt would be able to prove his employment discrimination claims without exposing classified information. Defendant [CIA] is incorrect that specific classified information like a CIA employee’s identity,… or the location of covert CIA facilities is needed by Mr. Abilt to prove his claims,” they wrote in a December 24 response.

The government disputed that response in a January 9, 2015 reply: “Although some very basic facts of Plaintiff’s CIA employment can be safely described at a high level of generality, litigation regarding those facts would nonetheless not be possible without revealing privileged information. ”

Last week, Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the Eastern District of Virginia accepted the CIA position and dismissed the case (as reported in Courthouse News Service on February 18).

“Privileged information is at the heart of Plaintiff’s claims for discrimination on the basis of disability and race, hostile work environment and retaliation, [and] Defendants cannot defend this action without relying on privileged information,” Judge Lee wrote in a February 10 order.

Mr. Abilt is an African American who suffers from narcolepsy and was prone to fall asleep at work. He was evidently authorized to take naps while employed at the CIA’s National Clandestine Service. “The naps did not interfere with his ability to successfully perform his duties,” according to the plaintiff’s December 24 opposition.

In principle, Mr. Abilt’s case could be referred for further investigation by the CIA inspector general, as provided under the terms of a September 2009 Department of Justice policy on state secrets cases for disputes that cannot be litigated. But there are no known cases where such a referral has actually been carried out.

The 2009 DOJ policy also promised a periodic report to Congress on current litigation involving the state secrets privilege. But no such report has been transmitted since April 2011.

Other pending state secrets cases include Gulet Mohamed v. Eric Holder, a challenge to the “no fly” list procedures. The government this week requested and was granted an opportunity for additional briefing in that case, including public filings.

And in the most peculiar of state secrets cases, Victor Restis v. United Against Nuclear Iran, the government has intervened to shut the case down even though it is not a party to the proceeding. Nor will it say on the public record which U.S. government agency is asserting the privilege or why it is doing so.

The plaintiff filed a motion last October to compel the government to disclose further information concerning its state secrets claim, and the issue was fully briefed by early December. A decision had been anticipated by the end of 2014. But Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York has still not ruled on the matter.

88 Days to Kandahar: The CIA in Afghanistan

Following the 9/11 attacks, the Central Intelligence Agency was tasked to lead the campaign against Al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts in Afghanistan. There were some initial successes, as the Taliban was driven from its strongholds and a new Afghan government rose to power. Yet the process was often chaotic, confused and haphazard.

“Operating at full throttle, constantly improvising, we seldom had occasion to stop and consider what we were doing, or how.”

That sentence from the new Afghanistan War memoir “88 Days to Kandahar” by Robert L. Grenier, the former CIA chief of station in Islamabad, Pakistan, could serve as a summary of much of the book (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

Although Grenier claims to find romance in the profession of intelligence, there is little or nothing romantic about the experiences he describes here. Instead, it’s one damn thing after another, often coming at an excruciating cost. Far from clandestinely orchestrating events, he and his fellow CIA operatives are mostly at the mercy of circumstances beyond their ability to control.

Miscommunication, petty jealousy, equipment failures, manipulative colleagues, bureaucratic rivals, and fickle allies all make an appearance in this blow-by-blow account of the opening CIA campaign in Afghanistan.

“The truth was that I was caught, once again, in the fog of mutual incomprehension between Washington and Islamabad.”

Mr. Grenier himself seems like a decent sort, competent, and well-intentioned. But his story is mostly sad, and disturbingly fatalistic.

“As I look back, I fail to see how the history of the past dozen-plus years could have been different,” he writes.

Those initial successes against the Taliban were both fortuitous and easily misunderstood. “There was hardly any genius at work in defeating a primitive army, employing primitive tactics, with uncontested airpower and precision-guided munitions.”

With the Bush Administration’s subsequent decision to go to war against Iraq in 2003, U.S. policy making became ever more incoherent and misguided, in Grenier’s telling.

As the CIA representative to the NSC Deputies’ Committee, “I had a front-row seat on some of the most disastrous foreign policy decisions in our history. It was a deeply disillusioning experience.”

“The meetings I attended at the pinnacle of the foreign policy bureaucracy were notable for what wasn’t said, rather than what was: mendacity and indirection were the orders of the day,” Grenier writes.

It only got worse as operations in Afghanistan dragged on. Yet the Obama Administration’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces on a fixed, predetermined schedule regardless of other strategic considerations is a fateful mistake, he says.

“The whole enterprise, in my view, was criminal:  Hundreds of U.S. servicemen lost their lives, their limbs, or suffered debilitating head injuries to IEDs while on patrol in Kandahar or Helmand, taking territory that their superiors should have known could never be held by Afghan forces.”

“After a span of a dozen years, the longest war in American history, we had succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden and degrading the organization responsible for the attacks on our shores. But regarding arguably our most important objective—to deny South-Central Asia as a future safehaven for international terrorists—a combination of unwise policies, inept execution, and myopic zeal had produced a situation arguably worse than the one with which we started.”

“For all the billions spent and lives lost, there is little to show, and most of that will not long survive our departure.”

Mr. Grenier’s relentlessly grim tale includes a passing portrait of “Greg,” the newly appointed director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service (as noted last week in the Washington Post). It also provides various insights into CIA bureaucratic culture.

We learn, for example, that “the Directorate of Operations [now the National Clandestine Service] does not tolerate profane or abusive language in cable traffic.”

SSCI Wants Copies of Full Torture Report Returned

Updated below

There is a new sheriff in town. Is that the message that Senator Richard Burr, the new chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is trying to send?

Senator Burr reportedly wrote to President Obama last week to ask that all copies of the classified 6,700 page Committee report on CIA interrogation practices be returned immediately to the Committee. While the redacted summary of the report has been publicly released and is even something of a bestseller for the Government Printing Office as well as a commercial publisher, the full report has not been made public. And Senator Burr seems determined to keep it that way.

Senator Burr’s letter was reported in C.I.A. Report Found Value of Brutal Interrogation Was Inflated by Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, January 20. (More: Washington Post, Huffington Post.)

Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chaired the Committee while the report was produced, scorned the request for its return.

“I strongly disagree that the administration should relinquish copies of the full committee study, which contains far more detailed records than the public executive summary. Doing so would limit the ability to learn lessons from this sad chapter in America’s history and omit from the record two years of work, including changes made to the committee’s 2012 report following extensive discussion with the CIA,” she said in a statement.

Among other things, the proposed return of the full report may be intended to prevent its potential future accessibility through the Freedom of Information Act, which does not apply to records in congressional custody.

But if so, this seems short-sighted and probably futile, given that all of the evidentiary material on which the report is based originated in the executive branch anyway. Moreover, the Committee report has spawned an entire literature of agency evaluations and responses (such as the so-called Panetta Review). That literature belongs to the agencies, and sooner or later it should be subject to public disclosure regardless of the fate of the SSCI report.

Update 1/22/15: Jason Leopold of VICE News has a thorough account of this episode to date here, including a copy of the letter from Senator Burr and a letter from Senator Feinstein in response.

Dept of State Delays Release of Iran History

The U.S. Department of State has blocked the publication of a long-awaited documentary history of U.S. covert action in Iran in the 1950s out of concern that its release could adversely affect ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

The controversial Iran history volume, part of the official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, had been slated for release last summer. (“History of 1953 CIA Covert Action in Iran to be Published,” Secrecy News, April 16, 2014).

But senior State Department officials “decided to delay publication because of ongoing negotiations with Iran,” according to the minutes of a September 8, 2014 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation that were posted on the Department of State website this week.

Dr. Stephen P. Randolph, the Historian of the State Department, confirmed yesterday that the status of the Iran volume “remains as it was in September” and that no new publication date has been set. The subject was also discussed at an Advisory Committee meeting this week.

The suppression of this history has been a source of frustration for decades, at least since the Department published a notorious 1989 volume on U.S. policy towards Iran that made no mention of CIA covert action.

But the latest move is also an indirect affirmation of the enduring significance of the withheld records, which date back even further than the U.S. rupture with Cuba that is now on the mend.

It seems that the remaining U.S. records of the 1953 coup in Iran are not only of historical interest but they evidently hold the power to move whole countries and to alter the course of events today. Or so the State Department believes.

“The logic, as I understand it, is that the release of the volume could aggravate anti-U.S. sentiment in Iran and thereby diminish the prospects of the nuclear negotiations reaching a settlement,” said Prof. Richard H. Immerman, a historian at Temple University and the chair of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee.

“I understand the State Department’s caution, but I don’t agree with the position,” he said. “Not only is the 1953 covert action in Iran an open secret, but it was also a motive for taking hostages in 1979. The longer the U.S. withholds the volume, the longer the issue will fester.”

Besides, if the documents do have an occult power to shape events, maybe that power could be harnessed to constructive ends.

“I would argue that our government’s commitment to transparency as signaled by the release of this volume could have a transformative effect on the negotiations, and that effect would increase the likelihood of a settlement,” Prof. Immerman suggested.

“At least some in the Iranian government would applaud this openness and seek to reciprocate. Further, the State Department of 2014 would distinguish this administration from the ‘Great Satan’ image of 1953 and after,” he said.

Continued secrecy has become an unnecessary obstacle to the development of US-Iran relations, argued historian Roham Alvandi in a similar vein in a New York Times op-ed (“Open the Files on the Iran Coup,” July 9, 2014).

“Moving forward with a new chapter in American-Iranian relations is difficult so long as the files on 1953 remain secret,” he wrote. “A stubborn refusal to release them keeps the trauma of 1953 alive in the Iranian public consciousness.”

*

The State Department published a new Foreign Relations of the United States volume today on the Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1978-80. It is the ninth FRUS volume of the year, and it came out “a little ahead of schedule,” said Dr. Randolph, the Department Historian.

CIA Torture Report: Oversight, But No Remedies Yet

The release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation program is, among other things, an epic act of record preservation.

Numerous CIA records that might not have been disclosed for decades, or ever, were rescued from oblivion by the Senate report and are now indelibly cited and quoted, even if many of them are not yet released in full.

That’s not a small thing, since the history of the CIA interrogation program was not a story that the Agency was motivated or equipped to tell.

“The CIA informed the Committee that due to CIA record retention policies, the CIA could not produce all CIA email communications requested by the Committee,” the report noted, explaining that the desired information was sometimes recovered from a reply message when the original email was missing.

Agency emails turned out to be a critical source of information, a fact that illuminates the Committee’s sharp response recently to the (now suspended) CIA proposal to the National Archives (NARA) to destroy most Agency emails of non-senior officials.

Thus, the gruesome record of the waterboarding of al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah “was referenced in emails, but was not documented or otherwise noted in CIA cables.” (This is at odds with NARA’s initial view that “It is unlikely that permanent records will be found in these email accounts that is not filed in other appropriate files.”)

The Committee report is also a remarkable demonstration of the congressional oversight function that is all the more impressive because it was performed in adverse, unfavorable conditions.

It is striking to see how the CIA sometimes treated the Senate Intelligence Committee, its leadership and its staff with the same disdain and evasiveness that is often perceived by FOIA requesters and other members of the public.

Committee questions were ignored, inaccurate information was provided, and the oversight process was gamed.

“Internal CIA emails include discussion of how the CIA could ‘get… off the hook on the cheap’ regarding [then-Committee] Chairman [Bob] Graham’s requests for additional information…. In the end, CIA officials simply did not respond to Graham’s requests prior to his departure from the Committee in January 2003,” the report said.

“I am deeply disturbed by the implications of the study for the committee’s ability to discharge its oversight responsibility,” wrote Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) in his additional remarks. “Because it appears from the study that the committee was continuously misled as to virtually all aspects of this program, it naturally raises the extremely troubling question as to whether we can trust the representations of the agency in connection with difficult or sensitive issues in the future.”

But minority members of the Committee disputed this characterization: “In reality, the overall pattern of engagement with the Congress shows that the CIA attempted to keep the Congress informed of its activities,” they wrote in their extensive dissenting views.

Perhaps the most important achievement of the Committee report was to document and memorialize the fact that agents of the US Government practiced torture. Not “harsh measures” or “enhanced techniques,” but torture.

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who criticized what she said were methodological flaws in the Committee report, said in her additional views that “Despite these significant flaws, the report’s findings lead me to conclude that some detainees were subject to techniques that constituted torture. This inhumane and brutal treatment never should have occurred.”

By the same token, the most important omission from the report is the absence of any discussion of remedies.

Now that it is firmly established that “we tortured some folks,” as President Obama awkwardly put it, the question is what to do about it. Confession without atonement is incomplete.

Prosecution seems problematic for a number of reasons, including the difficulty of localizing responsibility, when it is entire institutions and not just particular officials that failed.

A different approach to the problem would start by considering the individuals who suffered abuse at the hands of the U.S. government, including a number of persons who were detained in error. Congress could now ask how some of them (i.e. those who are still alive) could be compensated in some measure for what was wrongly done to them.

Several previous efforts to seek remedies for torture were deflected by use of the state secrets privilege. In light of the detailed findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report, that sort of evasion should be harder to sustain. Congress could accelerate a resolution of the problem with a focused investigation of what potential remedies are now feasible and appropriate.